CITY as CLASSROOM
The Lab, which has been up and running since 2019, is an emergent ‘maker space’ and takes up residency within Dharavi, an area of Mumbai that might be described as one of the largest informal aggregations of (re)maker and (re)manufacturing spaces on the planet.
The lab is activated byan artist/designer/engineer residency programme that utilises the materials and resources of the recycling industry as the starting point for learning and teaching about ecological design and living solutions.
Through a programme of workshops and residencies by artists, scientists, engineers and designers, the lab shares emerging tools and technologies of the circular economy with those who would not normally have access to them, developing a learning environment that has the potential to improve their life chances.
The project explores a paradigm of smart city where the technologically advanced city emerges from below rather than being centrally planned and implemented. In particular, participants are able to test and innovate with various technologies, exploring the ways in which plastics can be recycled, remanufactured and remade safely, reliably and creatively.
At the Lab, young people are placed at the centre of their own learning, to co-design and develop a bespoke ‘living curriculum’ that responds to their issues, addresses their needs and aids their future goals.
The residencies will be used as a springboard for generating and developing informal design learning materials. We draw on the technical and design expertise of our communities of users, who will assist in evaluating the outcomes of residencies and workshops. The outcomes of the residency will inform thinking and content of a design curriculum.
This emergent curriculum will provide some starting points for informal art and design education in India, acknowledging the lack of a visual arts curriculum, and particular design, in most formal primary and secondary schools. The future of the workplace will require a new generation of artists, designers and skilled makers. Giving children and young people agency in their learning is a powerful tool for change.
The lab and associated programmes introduces design and media tools, technologies, 3D design and digital fabrication to disadvantaged, marginalised citizens who because their socio-economic status do not have access to these resources. It develops a learning environment that has the potential to improve their life chances. ACORN members are co-designing and developing a bespoke ‘living curriculum’ that responds to their issues, addresses their needs and aids their future goals. The learning and practical outcomes of our design curriculum will test their potential application for disadvantaged citizens / vulnerable learners.
There is a strong training aspect, involving layers of peer mentoring, within the groups of participants, between the research team and Acorn staff, and between the residency facilitators and wider communities of practice engaged through our partner organisations. Our model of development is not one that is imposed from outside; rather it is co-developed with participants in a process of shared learning and exchange.