Session 2 – A tentative historiography of “Design with care” 1/2

Session 2 – A tentative historiography of “Design with care” 1/2

by Cynthia Fleury, philosopher and psychoanalyst, professor at the CNAM, Humanities and Medicine Chair, and Antoine Fenoglio, designer and co-founder of Les Sismo.

Discussion of a proposed history of “proof of care”: historiography of design, and the specificity of “design with care”: major trends and designers who have devoted attention or general consideration to society and vulnerability in their work.

This first session in historiography seeks to identify the main themes and practices that inform the concept of design with care, from Antiquity to 1939.

The term design has three meanings corresponding to three possible dates of birth: during the Renaissance, design as a project (disegno), marked the beginnings of a separation between conception and execution in architecture; the Universal Exhibition of 1851, which marked the advent of industrial manufacturing at the expense of craftsmanship and manual work; the Arts & Crafts movement of William Morris, which defined design as more than just the drawing of objects, but rather as the design of an equitable society.

Design with care posits the core premise of putting attention before management: Fourier’s phalansteries, an innovative type of housing aimed at redefining the organisation of work and leisure time with a focus on employee well-being, can be construed as an early illustration of this principle.

The trauma of the First World War caused profound changes. The desire to start afresh was felt in many spheres, particularly in the arts (with the Bauhaus movement, for example). Our capacity for experience was durably impaired, as Walter Benjamin observed in the soldiers of 14-18, or later Agamben, for whom the “jumble of everyday events” alone was enough to overwhelm the resilience of modern man – which Design with Care sought precisely to restore.

The industrial use of innovations born during and for the war effort confronted design with the paradox of progress: Should we embrace the industrial approach or return to craftsmanship? Must we participate in or fight against consumer society? These were now recurring questions in design.

Increasing urbanisation led designers to discuss the organisation of cities: the Athens Charter (1933) called for the separation of functions and the use of models in the reconstruction of cities after the Second World War. The principles behind design with care are more in line with the Aalborg Charter (1994) which, on the contrary, advocates a diversity of urban functions to achieve sustainable development.