Rethinking shared space
12 December 2023 News

We look back at What if Lab in 2023

With the new year approaching, it’s time to take a look back at 2023. For it was a year full of meaningful collaborations, innovative designs and further developments. From new What if Labs to projects from completed labs, all developments came to a peak at Dutch Design Week 2023 (DDW23).
What if Lab: Rethinking shared space © Boudewijn Bollmann

Positive use of mixed fuctions in the city

In March 2023, in collaboration with Sweco, we searched for designers to make new choices for mixed-use areas; places where industry opposes housing, mobility opposes liveability or nature opposes agriculture. In What if Lab: Rethinking shared space, Starling Associates, cocosmos and Space & Matter set to work on this. Each design studio developed future-proof, integral and adaptive solutions to shape use of mixed functions in a positive and future-proof way. During DDW23, they showed their concepts to a broad audience. Curious about the concepts? Read more here

“DDW is both an end and a starting point of ideas and initiatives, and during DDW23 those two elements came together for us as never before within the collaboration with Sweco in the What If Lab. It was a treat to celebrate the result with everyone involved from Sweco, to present our work together physically, and at the same time discover future potentials!” – Lars van Vianen (Starling Associates)

Kick-off What if Lab: Upcycled turbines ©

Kick-off met Vattenfall: circularity in wind energy

Another open call followed in September. In collaboration with Vattenfall, we looked for designers to promote circularity in wind energy. Wind turbines in a wind farm have an operational lifespan of 30 years. How can you reuse the parts as well as possible when the turbines are dismantled? After an intensive selection process, four designers were eventually chosen instead of the intended three! The selected designers will develop scenarios in which wind farms have a small to no material footprint and in which the energy output of a wind turbine is maximised during its lifetime. During DDW23, the designers and the Vattenfall team came together for the first time for the official kick-off, which consisted of several expert sessions. Wondering what emerged there? Read the recap here.

“We have the technical expertise for designing wind farms in-house, but for innovative angles we seek precisely the creative brainpower and input from sparring partners who are given all the freedom to come up with inspiring ideas that we would not have come up with.” – Thomas Hjort, director Innovation Offshore Wind at Vattenfall

© Penyue Yang

The Indonesian designers in The Netherlands!

In What if Lab: Sustainable public spaces, the second collaboration between What if Lab and Erasmus Huis Jakarta, Dutch and Indonesian designers team up to design a prototype for neighbourhoods in Indonesia that currently lack access to shared community spaces. During DDW23, the Indonesian designers visited the Netherlands. Here, they had the chance to get inspiration from current What if Lab projects and presentations. In March 2024, the selected designers will present their concept in Jakarta. And during DDW24, they will show the concepts in Eindhoven.

What if Lab at InnovatieExpo 2023

After DDW23, we moved right on. Because this year, What if Lab was part of the Innovation Expo on 2 November! How can we harness design power for social transitions? On behalf of Dutch Design Foundation, we showcased that with four What if Labs. We took visitors of InnovationExpo into a reality where the power of design cannot be denied. The four projects visualise concretely how design power can contribute to a broad range of social issues. They also show how designers and organisations work together to arrive at new solutions and perspectives. Read which projects we exhibited here.

BuurtWoongroep applied in Roosendaal

In What if Lab: Connected Generations, i.c.w. ActiZ, social design agency We are Social Rebels developed the concept De BuurtWoongroep (The Neighbourhood Living Group). De BuurtWoongroep is a flexible living group spread throughout the neighbourhood. It consists of people of different generations who form a social network, look after each other and do things together. For instance, members can manage places in the neighbourhood together or share spaces. After much interest from various parties, such as municipalities, welfare organisations, nursing homes, etc., this concept was followed up in 2023. In Roosendaal, together with residents and healthcare professionals, the designers set up a BuurtWerkgroep (Neighbourhood Working Group), which is now fully independent. Members of the group drew up a joint mission for the neighbourhood, defined their role in it, involved local residents and organised the first neighbourhood initiatives. 

We are Social Rebels’ concept was included as a case study in a study by ActiZ on the impact of social design on elderly care. Read more about the study here (in Dutch).