Design as Politics

prof.dr. Wouter Vanstiphout

Initiated by the ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu) of the Netherlands and housed within the faculty of architecture at the Delft University of Technology, the chair of Design as Politics is exploring, researching and defining the boundaries, commonalities and tensions between the fields of politics and design.

The chair understands politics in the widest sense possible: it defined it as the level in society on which   conflicting interests between groups of citizens become visible and are being solved, oftentimes through debate and negotiation, but possibly also by exerting power or using physical violence. Politics as an adjective means, to be able to formulate a vision of society in which certain interests are consciously given higher values than others, and to know how to use the available tools to turn this view of society into action.

Design & Politics does not consider design and politics to be two separated worlds, but rather considers politics to be an important dimension of design and, simultaneously, design as an equally important tool for practicing politics. An alternative name for the chair could thus be ‘Design as Politics’. This means that looking at the realm of politics will renew the toolset of the designer, while the spatial perspective of developments in society will be considered to enrich the existing set of political instruments.

With this premise, the chair is explicitly looking for alternatives for classical top-down planning methods and control mechanisms, through which governments have manifested themselves in the 20th century. This is done against the current (Dutch) political background, in which a strong emphasis is placed on decentralisation of governmental duties and the greater involvement of citizens in the so-called civil society. This calls for alternative models and tools, which allow us to let emerge greater differences on a smaller, regional and even local level. Through research projects, design studios and a series of lectures, the chair is exploring the consequences of this changing system in relation to design and how spatial quality can best be created, now and in the future.

Design as Politics Blog
Take a look at the Design as Politics blog to find the most recent information on the chair, recordings of their lectures, publications and other updates on research and teaching activities.


Danielle Hellendoorn