The “MADE Labs” Summer School brings the best of international design to the centre of Syracuse

A conversation with Alessandro Montel, driving force of the MADE project, in the new edition of the workshops organised by Studio Formafantasma and Moncada Rangel, which this year examines the theme of welcoming and inclusion.

MADE Labs 2019

Organised by Studio Formafantasma and Moncada Rangel, the third edition of “MADE Labs” is to be dedicated to the themes of acceptance, borders and migration, “Welcome”. The programme includes two weeks (22.7–3.8.2019) full of activities in the centre of Syracuse. Nine workshops of five days each, and 13 conferences with international guests, such as Beatriz Colomina, Mark Wigley, Jan Boelen, Fiona Raby and Emanuele Coccia. An educational initiative from the “MADE Program”, a project set up by the Rosario Gagliardi Academy of Fine Arts in Syracuse, “MADE Labs” is a platform for discussion that was created with an ambitious declaration of intent: “Respond - through design - to the increasingly pressing needs to contemporary global ecology”. Alessandro Montel, director of the Rosario Gagliardi Academy of Fine Arts and the driving force behind the MADE project, sums up the results of the last two editions and provides a preview of the content for this year.

Why was MADE Labs set up?
For the same reasons that the MADE Program was created. To contribute, through high-level educational initiatives, to the re-launching of an area with enormous and unexpressed potential. A commitment that, above all in this moment of such profound and generalised “ethical” crisis, we have no hesitation in defining as moral.

Above and opening page: the workshop by Arquitectura-G in 2017
Above and opening page: the workshop by Arquitectura-G in 2017

How do you choose the designers and the workshops? What does this year’s programme involve?
We always begin with a theme, one which goes beyond the traditionally defined boundaries of the relative disciplines. Once the theme has been defined, we try to understand which people, on a global level, have treated it in an original and intellectually profitable manner. Again in this case, we move in a liberal and transverse manner. It is no coincidence that in the “Labs” once can find designers, architects, photographers and graphic designers, as well as philosophers and botanists. This year, the program - curated by Formafantasma and Moncada Rangel - provides for nine workshops (held by Leopold Banchini, Adam Broomberg, Izaskun Cincilla, Matteo Ghidoni, Fernando Laposse, Maio Architects, Jorge Penadés, Pivenefabi and Thomas Thwaites) and the “MADE Labs Symposium”, two evenings open to the public providing discussions on the theme of work, with the intervention of important figures from the world of culture (such as Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, Jan Boelen, Fiona Raby and Emanuele Coccia), called on to discuss with the workshop leaders, the workshop participants and interested spectators.

The keyword, that can be read as a watermark behind this year’s title – “Welcome” – is inclusiveness.

In the wake of “Authenti-city” (2017) and the “United Nations’ 17 objectives for sustainable development” (2018), tell us about the 2019 edition, “Welcome”.
The keyword, that can be read as a watermark behind this year’s title – “Welcome (borderless visions on design, architecture and visual arts)” – is inclusiveness. If we bring together the two terms “welcome” and “inclusiveness”, it is very easy to consider the news of the last few months, or the last few days, and what is happening just a short distance from here, in the waters off these coastal areas. However, the work this year is also aimed at offering a contribution to a reflection on the role that these lands have always played; with the role of a crossroads in the Mediterranean that Sicily has held for millennia, as well as the capacity for an often original form of synthesis and re-examination that these places have managed to express. We always seek to understand if and how the disciplines that a school such as ours examines can serve as a vehicle for economic and social inclusion.

The workshop with Bethan Laura Woods in 2017
The workshop with Bethan Laura Woods in 2017

Who are your students and what are they looking for in Syracuse?
These are people who come from all over the world (this year we have had, for the first time, enrolments from India, Peru and Colombia, but in the previous two editions we welcomed people form 25 countries in 4 continents). They are undoubtedly curious, decidedly “committed”, but they also have a strong desire to have fun and meet new people. In Syracuse they look for the same things that the majority of people look for: an incredible historical stratification, the sea and a light that is hard to describe.

What do they learn from this experience?
That is something you need to ask them. We hope that they take away a “concentrate” of new ideas and original ways of looking at reality, as well as the air that they breathe in these places. The fact that many of them come back suggest to us that, all things considered, the formula works.

Il progetto MADE nasce con l’intento di lavorare sul territorio e per il territorio, mettendo a frutto esperienze e competenze di docenti e professionisti provenienti da tutto il mondo.

The conventions and workshops are all held in English. The guests are international. What relationship does the school have with the local area?
The MADE project was set up with the aim of working in and for the territory, bringing to fruition the experience and abilities of teacher and professors from all over the world. The “MADE Labs” are in English because we realised that Sicily is very attractive to foreign visitors, above all during the summer, although we saw that even in this area, there is a strong tendency to not see what exists in the immediate area, despite always being considered accessible. There is also a well-rooted habit to look to the north, perhaps more so than in other places. One of our main objectives is to convince those who live in Sicily that exceptional things can also be done in these places.

An initial overview following the first two editions. What have you learned?
The overall result is positive. We have understood that, despite everything, there is a strong desire for culture. That, if placed in the conditions to do so, people are prepared to travel far in order to learn. That the most mixed working groups are those that often produce the most interesting solutions. And that we still have much to learn.

Final day of the workshop by Arquitectura-G in 2017
Final day of the workshop by Arquitectura-G in 2017

What was the workshop that surprised you the most?
All the workshops have been a surprise for us. Some functioned with the precision of a Swiss watch, others were much more unexpected. In all cases, the results went far beyond our expectations, and - at times - our fears. Perhaps, one workshop that more than any other had the most “scenographic” impact was the “Tribute to Jasper Maskelyne and the Magic Gang”, from the Barcellona Arquitectura-G firm, which ended with the launching into the sea of an enormous model of an imaginary island of Ortigia, made by the participants. It is no coincidence that the model floating on the waves, surrounded by the swimming participants and the workshop leader, became one of the most shared images of the last edition.

The workshop with Arabeschi di Latte, 2017
The workshop with Arabeschi di Latte, 2017

How can design contribute to making the world a better place?
Design is not only the invention of a product or service (or the aesthetic harmonisation of its function), but also the vehicle for meaning. This is why nowadays, the aim of those who teach design should be to train designers who are aware of materials and processes, of the meaning of their actions, of the role of the industry and, above all for us who work in these places, of artisan production.

What does a young person who wants to be a designer have to learn nowadays?
They should learn to look behind things, to look deeper, regaining the desire for research that leads to discovery. To never be satisfied with pre-packaged content and solutions. To never take anything for granted. I almost forgot, to speak English.

The workshop by Fala Atelier, 2017
The workshop by Fala Atelier, 2017

What advice would you give on how to pass the time in Syracuse and the surrounding area once the workshops are over?
It may sound banal, but lovers of the sea can just put on their swimming costumes and go for a swim on one of the beaches of Ortigia. It would be hard to list all the things to see in the city, from the temple of Apollo to the Duomo, with the Doric columns in the Temple of Minerva that still mark out the perimeter, from the Greek Theatre, to be seen with the Ear of Dionysus, to the Caravaggio held in the Church of Saint Lucia. From 24 to 28 July, for lovers of electronic music, there is also the “Ortigia Sound System”, one of the most important electronic music festivals in Europe, and this year our partner with a number of special initiatives. On days off, participants can travel a little further afield, and visit wonders such as Noto, Scicli, Ragusa and Caltagirone, or reach the Villa del Casale in Piazza Armerina, to see some of the most beautiful mosaics in the world.

Workshop with Sabine Marcelis, 2017
Workshop with Sabine Marcelis, 2017

Plans for next year?
Obviously, an edition which at the least is as rich as this one, perhaps able to take advantage of a series of agreements with other local events, on which we are already working.

Event title:
MADE Labs 2019: Welcome
When:
22 July – 3 August 2019
Where:
Accademia di Belle Arti Rosario Gagliardi
Address:
Via Cairoli 20, Syracuse
Curators:
Studio Formafantasma, Moncada Rangel Architects
Workshops by:
Leopold Banchini, Adam Broomberg with Hoda Afshar, Matteo Ghidoni, Fernando Laposse, Izaskun Chinchilla, Maio Architects, Jorge Penadés, Piovenefabi, Thomas Thwaites

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