Sir David Adjaye and Tiffany Chu among the nine speakers at the inaugural Design Commons

The deconstructed conference puts global heavyweights in design at the same table as the audience.

David Adjaye, Winy Maas, and Tiffany Chu are among the speakers at the inaugural Design Commons event.

The deconstructed conference puts global heavyweights in design at the same table as the audience with the aim of answering one question: How do we design better cities?

Here’s the rundown of the people ready to lead the conversation:

Tech City  

From checking the fastest route to work to ordering and paying for lunch, cellphone apps are part of the way we live and move in the world. Design Indaba Conference 2017 speaker Marko Ahtisaari is no stranger to this tech accessory.

As the founder of the Sync Project, Ahtisaari is at the forefront of what apps can do for healthcare. The Finnish entrepreneur and therapeutic designer uses music generated with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data gathering to de-stress the listener and, in turn, enhance their lives. His hope is that music could one day replace harmful pharmaceutical drugs.

Watch the Design Talk

Tech designer Chris Sheldrick wants to make the lives of billions of people a little easier by making the postal addressing system more intuitive. His app, what3words divides the entire globe into 57 trillion 3 metre by 3 metre squares. Each square is assigned a unique combination of three simple English words which can then be used as that location's address.  

Tiffany Chu

Another tech guru, Tiffany Chu is a developer, programmer and rising star in the design world. With the creation of her program Remix, the San Francisco-based designer is changing the game for transit planners. Working as a simple drag-and-drop platform, Remix open-source libraries, maps, and data sets to create a seamless view of new transportation options.

Building Green 

Dutch architect and director of MVRDV, Winy Maas says it’s time we unlock the potential of our already built spaces. “We have built up everything. There is too many of us here. What is the alternative?” he asked in his Design Indaba 2017 Design Talk.

The globally operating architecture and urban planning firm MVRDV is based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, known for projects such as the Expo 2000, the vision for greater Paris, Grand Paris Plus Petit, and more recently the Market Hall in Rotterdam.

De Groene Kaap - Preliminary Design by LOLA

LOLA Landscape Architects, the creation of founders Cees van der Veeken, Peter Veenstra and Jan Pleijster, is conceptual in its approach to landscape design. In particular, van der Veeken’s expertise lies in the design of regional parks, landscape structures and green public spaces – additions we often overlook in the concrete jungle.

van der Veeken is also a teacher and award-winner. In 2001 he was awarded the Eo Wijersprize and in 2006, he won the Europan 8. In 2013 he received the Rotterdam Maaskant Prize for Young Architects. In 2014 LOLA received the Topos Landscape Award in Lausanne (CH).

Paloma Strelitz at the Design Indaba Conference 2017

In December 2015, London-based collective Assemble became the first ever architecture studio to win the prestigious Turner Art Prize for their Granby Four Streets project in Liverpool. Speaking at the Design Indaba Conference in 2016, Assemble’s Paloma Strelitz said the city can be a disempowering place:

“As a practice we’re really interested in addressing the disconnection between the public and the way that our buildings and the built environment are made. After all, cities are manmade and material.”

Strelitz is one of the members of the DIY-architecture collective and will be bringing her insights to Design Commons. Watch their Design Talk. 

From Conceptual to Physical 

Projects by British artist Alexander Groves and Japanese architect Azusa Murakami of Studio Swine have captured the imagination of the design world. Spanning across creative disciplines, their work explores identity and the future of resources.

Most recently, the husband and wife duo created New Spring, an interactive installation inspired by the iconic cherry blossoms of Japan. The installation presents ephemeral materials in a strange new context; delicate mist-filled ‘blossoms’ that disappear on contact with skin but can be held by visitors wearing special gloves.

The value of curiosity

IKEA is known for pushing the limits of what they can do by seeking out new ideas, and new collaborations. The global giant’s head of design Marcus Engman is at the forefront of how the retail giant builds its ranges and designs its products. To do this, Engman needs to be curious and creative in every project he undertakes. “So every day we challenge the status quo and the boundaries of what is possible. I also build a strong network of creatives outside IKEA because there’s a lot we don’t know and want to learn,” he explains.

Watch his interview on the latest IKEA x Design Indaba collaboration. 

A master in creativity

Sir David Adjaye is undeniably a leading architect of his generation. He was awarded the OBE for services to architecture in 2007. Since 2005 he has published numerous books on architecture and has also exhibited widely. He recently unveiled his long-awaited Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. Some of his most celebrated designs included the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo and the Francis Gregory Neighbourhood library in Washington.

Watch Adjaye's 2014 Design Talk

Design Commons is the brainchild of Design Indaba’s Ravi Naidoo and Helsinki Design Week’s Kari Korkman. The capsule event will launch at World Design Week (WDW) summit in Helsinki on 14 September at the Clarion Hotel.

Find out more.