As part of a group of four, I co-created a talk and discussion format that aimed to start a conversation about participatory urban design. Our goal was to create an athmosphere that would enable both speakers and guests to join into a lively discussion, different to many of the talks we've been to in the past, where rows and rows of front-facing seating and a stage situation for the lecturer created at best a question-answer conversation and at worst a completely one-sided communication.
I was inspired by a weekly lunch I used to organize at my university for all faculty members, students and teachers alike, where we served affordable meals on a long table accompanied by lively discussions among all guests. For the table talks were excited to try an informal setting, that reminded us of the exclusive dinners, lecturers would often be invited to by the organizers after a talk, but instead of an elite group, at our event everyone could join. Our cross-disciplinary team, consisting of me, Jurek Werth and Tobias Schafroth from DIESE Studio as well as Valentin Braun, designed a setting inspired by a classic italian restaurant(1) with a 15m long table and an outdoor kitchen, organized our guest speakers, such as Stadtlücken e.V. and Endboss, and structured the evening.
We served three courses, including handmade pizza as well as dolci and Grappa. We used the breaks between each course to structure the evening with a short input(2) by our guest speakers, followed by discussions across the table that often lasted well into the next course. Each guest was equipped with a table mat to take notes.
The evenings where well recieved by our guests and sparked interesting new ideas. I appreciated the discussions within our team about how to achieve our vision as well as seeing it unfold. We are currently working on a new season of talks.
(1) We tried to design the setting in a way, a stage designer would design for a chamber play. We tried to analyze the minimal setting one needs to feel invited, catered to and that reminds of a family style italian restaurant.
(2) We gave each speaker roughly 15 minutes to explain their method and introduce one of their projects. We felt this timeframe was short enough for everyone to pay attention to but still allowed to introduce talking points which then could be discussed by the group.