Designing Tamara

Designing Tamara is a Visual Conversations on Urban Futures (VCUF) workshop that took place at the Musing inside Systems event at Chelsea College of Art (

Visual Conversations on Urban Futures are processes and artefacts that utilise visual language to enable and/or document polyphonies of voices that imagine and debate possible futures for life in the city (

The workshop was intended as a playful way of engaging participants to reflect on collaborative city-imaginaries: what are the forces and dynamics that shape the city? What are the challenges? Can visions of possible futures have a role in supporting democratic dialogues?

To do so, 170 students from the BA in Interior and Spatial Design have been involved in a role-play experiment that transported them to the year 2100. Here, they were invited to join the “Centre for Urbanism Prototyping”, a fictional participatory design agency that prototypes new ways of urban living in the “Alternate Reality Mesh”, before exporting the best ideas to Planet Earth.

Each participant was assigned a character, and collaborated with others in groups of 8 to design a neighbourhood, thinking of which urban objects could be created, amplified, or destroyed. Each group reflected on the values portrayed in the neighbourhood and synthesise them in a Neighbourhood Micro-Manifesto. After a while, all neighbourhoods wereassembled to create a massive city in the middle of the room. The Neighbourhood Manifestoswere placed on neighbourhoods, and the collaborative artefact will be photographed and translated into a compositional manifesto of the imaginary city.

In the second part of the workshop, individual groups were given a series of challenges that disrupted the equilibrium of the utopian city built in the first part, and forced them to negotiate strategies, design solutions, and highlight conflicts across neighbourhoods.

At the end of the workshop, we reflected on dynamics that emerged during the activity, and the purpose of designing speculative cities.

A group of 8 students from the MA in Service Experience Design and Innovation at LCC helped me facilitating the workshop.

Why Tamara

Tamara is one of the imaginary cities described in Italo Calvino’s book ‘Invisible Cities’. Through a description of this fictional city, Calvino reflects on the role of all the signs that can be found in the city as symbolic representations of material and social practices.

Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages: the city says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara, you are only recording the manes with which she defines herself and her parts (Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities. 1972)

Our workshop was not an attempt to design a realistic city (of course!), but a way of talking about values, visions, futures, and aspirations by making these visible and tangible.

Below, some photos of the event:

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