Livable Proximity Creates Possibilities for Caring

Ezio Manzini in front of projection screen

Manzini, who described himself as a design researcher, two decades ago began looking for traits that lead to a healthy societies. "Collaboration is the first thing they have in common," he said. "Care is the second thing that is fundamental for every possible ecological, sustainable, resilient society we can imagine."

"The paradox is care cannot be designed. We have to create a situation where people have care between them, they care for the environment, but care cannot be designed!"

The solution, Manzini said, was to design systems that make collaboration and care possible.

"Physical proximity allows collaboration because if we are near, we can do something together. But proximity in every language is also to feel near in relation to others, and this relational proximity, at the end, is care."

"So we have found the bridge in between what can be designed and what is very important but cannot be designed."

Designing for proximity leads to a new vision of the city. "I call it the city of proximity," Manzini said. "Other people call it the 15-minute city."

"This is a city in which you can find whatever you need for your life not far from where you are. And if me and my neighbor have a lot of things to do in the same proximity, we have occasion to start conversation, and that's the basis to recreate some form of community."

Faculty and Students Exchange Ideas with Manzini

Sabir Khan and Ezio Manzini talking

Following the lecture, faculty and students had an opportunity to discuss further implications of Manzini's research with him.

A key question was the role of design in creating livable proximity.

"It's design to generate scenarios," Manzini said. "It's design to find the right word; it's design to generate a vision."

"Part of my design role is to tell a story, to make meaning."

"Once we generate a frame of meaning around the world that didn't exist before, what does it need to be real? Design is sense making but is also problem-solving."

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