One of a Kind Dual Exhibit Brings Cuba and Berlin to Pasadena

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Story by BRANDON VILLALOVOS | Photography courtesy ArtCenter College of Design

1:51 am | December 7, 2016


Aspiring designers travelled overseas to Havana and Berlin in an exclusive Art Center program that not only helped to broaden student knowledge, but also brought back an up close and personal look inside the culture of the school’s foreign counterparts in the form of a dual exhibit showcasing international collaboration.

Designmatters is Art Center’s award-winning social impact department that enabled students to present Fresh Eyes Cuba in conjunction with the Testlab Berlin City_X exhibit that is set to open to the public Dec. 7.

“Art Center has a strong commitment for international engagement. You cannot be an informed designer if you are not global. Projects like these that celebrate collaboration and connection are more important than ever,” said Designmatters Co-Founder and Vice President Dr. Mariana Amatullo.

Fresh Eyes Cuba is a 14 week transdisciplinary ArtCenter studio course organized around a 10-day immersive trip to Havana, Cuba that took place in early October. Faculty and students lived in Havana and collaborated with the Instituto de Diseño (ISDi), Cuba’s design school.

“Cuba has a very, very rich and sophisticated visual culture and we felt that we had a lot to learn as both faculty and students from our Cuban counterparts,” said Amatullo.

Under the guidance of ArtCenter faculty, communication and industrial design students from ArtCenter and ISDi engaged in an experiential workshop, building interactive pop-up installations that attracted 200 people.

“It’s designed as a multi-sensory environment that the audience will experience—almost trying to recreate through the eyes of the team that went there and how they experienced the city,” explained Amatullo.

This final exhibition at ArtCenter will feature installations that are a reflection of and reaction to the students’ individual and collective experiences in Cuba’s ecosystem of innovation and creativity at this historic moment in time.

“I think the passing of Fidel Castro adds another sense of timely component to this work, but even before his passing, the reason we looked at developing this project was because we were really interested in pushing the envelope in terms of thinking about what it means to have very sensitive and informed artists and designers at Art Center,” said Amarillo.

The students documented every encounter they made through video and photography, according to Graphic Design Department Chair Prof. Nikolaus Hafermaas.

“All of these installation have to do more or less with the Cuban students’ pent up desires to speak out and to address issues within the Cuban society,” said Hafermaas. “It’s a super-immersive kind of experience.”

Haftermaas, who is a Berlin native, was integral in establishing the exhibits other half—Testlab Berlin City_X—a student conceived sustainable urban design for Berlin’s “Smart City” initiative that will replace an out-of-date airport, tap the regions robust hacker and start-up culture through Socialtecture design strategy to capture Berlin’s spirit in an inclusive, connecting vein, according to a press release.

The creative focus of this 90-day studio in the German capital is the re-imagination of the soon-to-be-closed Tegel International Airport as a Smart City. Named the “Urban Tech Republic,” this ambitious private/public initiative will transform the former inner city airport into a research venue and model city for sustainable green technology on an urban scale.

“This specific project is extremely timely because the last remaining inner-city airport, Tegel International Airport, is about to be closed down. With the closure of the airport, there is prime real estate in very close proximity to the city that needs to have a a re-use,” said Hafermaas.

ArtCenter students conceived CITY_X, a design model that opens the smart city initiative towards participation by Berlin’s population at large, especially tapping into the rich fabric of the creative industries, start-up entrepreneurs and hacker culture.

“Our students immersed themselves with Berlin creative types and forged relationships to create something spectacular,” said Hafermaas.

Using real-time and Socialtecture-based design strategies, the students capture Berlin’s authentic creative spirit and transform it into four distinct campaigns for outreach and inclusion. CITY_X allows the Urban Tech Republic to grow vital connective tissue to the population of Berlin, according to a press release.

“These exhibits really represent Art Center’s commitment to think about international opportunities for our students in a non-traditional way. It’s a way we can educate this next generation of designers in a truly global manner,” said Amatullo.

ArtCenter College of Design’s Fresh Eyes Cuba and BERLIN CITY_X Exhibition & Celebration opens Wednesday 4:00pm to 8:00pm at 1111 South Arroyo Parkway and 8:00pm to 10:00pm at 950 South Raymond Avenue.

The Dual Exhibit is free and open to the public.

For more information visit http://www.artcenter.edu.