Open Design School

Open design school

An international and interdisciplinary lab for the community.

An international and interdisciplinary lab for the community.

The Open Design School, ODS in short, has been one of the two pillar projects for Matera’s application as the European Capital of Culture. ODS has brought together authors, bloggers, designers, craftsmen, hackers, students, professionals, and academics, creating the first design school in Europe based on the principles of Open Culture.

The Open Design School launched its activities in 2016, with the primary goal of setting up a workshop to self-produce everything needed for the cultural program of Matera 2019: from the infrastructure to the service supply. In this spirit, one of the first projects focused on the School’s headquarters, Casino Padula, on the outskirts of Matera, in the Agna-Le Piane district.

talks, events and workshops
professionals involved
OPEN Design School
Open as in open source, but also as open for the city and for experimentation.

At the heart of the Open Design School's activity, there is a continuous path of sharing outputs and processes with the territory. This is embodied in the four-event formats that have defined the School's events since the very beginning.

Open Talks, which consisted of lessons, debates and screenings on topics related to open design, social practices and the School’s project.

Open Reviews, that are public presentations of the School’s work, to gather feedback from the public and the stakeholders.

Community Workshops, or hands-on sessions held by Italian and international experts on techniques related to the School’s work, like DIY repair methods, upcycling and woodwork.

Open Days, during which the School’s Lab, along with its hardware and tools, could be used by anyone to carry out their own projects.

In addition to these four formats, the School has organized a series of other events for Matera 2019, like exhibitions and presentations.

As shown in the chart below, between 2016 and 2019, ODS has organized 27 Open Talks, 23 Open Reviews, 28 Community Workshops, and 9 other public events. Thanks to these activities, the School has activated a network between at least 2,680 participants and 67 speakers.

One event every three days, for three years.

Chart Eventi 2017 2018 2019 2020
Open DESIGN SchoolDesign as in conception and implementation of projects, but also as care for the local community’s needs.

At the School, the attendees design in interdisciplinary teams: they invent, prototype, and build creative and technological solutions to support the Matera 2019 cultural programme.

ODS’s first significant project has been “Venues of Matera / Luoghi di Matera”, a quantitative and qualitative mapping of the locations in Basilicata that could host the Matera 2019 events. A journey across more than 41 cities resulted in data on 431 sites, from the smallest of 30m2 to the biggest of 60,000 m2. Most of the venues mapped are outside the Central and Sassi areas of Matera.

431 venues mapped in the Region of Basilicata

Many of the locations mapped then went on to become protagonists of the Matera 2019 programme, in some cases thanks to site-specific projects by the School to restore and reuse existing spaces. To this end, ODS activated a total of 83 projects, 54 of which involved the construction of installations. On several occasions, the School’s intervention meant that the Matera 2019 programme could reach unusual venues, traditionally not used for cultural events.

In total, ODS construction projects led to the restoration and reuse of about 12,480m2 of spaces, first of all thanks to the work on Casino Padula, the School’s headquarters. Here, the ODS teams were able to recover almost 5,000 m2 in a previously underused venue at the outskirts of the City. The recovery intervention focused both on the interiors and on the vast outside area. The latter became home to Giardino Padula, one of the 32 community gardens in Basilicata activated by progetto Gardentopia, the Matera 2019 project which, through artistic residencies, transformed neglected spaces into open gardens.

ODS design interventions also resulted in the recovery of 1,200 m2 at Cava Paradiso located in the Archaeological and Natural Park of the Cave Churches and site of the exhibitions of I-DEA, the other pillar project of Matera 2019.

Overall, as the chart below shows, the School’s installation projects led to the activation of 17 unusual venues for events. Also, 15 projects allowed the Matera 2019 cultural programme to reach areas outside of Matera’s Historical Center and Sassi area.

ODS installations in typical and unusual venues for cultural events

Note: Three projects with fittings both in the Centre and in the neighbourhoods outside Matera have been counted several times, once for each area.
Open Design SCHOOL
School as in a place for learning, but also as in horizontal peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge and backgrounds.

Other than being a place of production, ODS represented a learning environment for all the participants involved.

The work teams had been selected to favour a diverse background, in terms of professional expertise and of geographical origin, with one-third of the participants from Basilicata, one-third from Italy and one-third from abroad. With the intertwining of different experiences, the School became a unique growth opportunity for all those involved. Not quite a School in the common sense, rather a peer-to-peer knowledge exchange occurring through shared work practices, where the traditional hierarchies between students and teachers dissolved.

In total, 35 professionals have been selected to be part of the School. Mostly architects, designers and artists, but also journalists and mathematicians. Alongside these teams, 4 collaborators, 64 external experts and 13 staff members have contributed to the School. The following graph shows them all.

  • All
  • Origin
  • Type
  • Role

It’s not only the internal participants that benefited from the knowledge exchange mechanisms activated by the School, but also the outside communities. This is well documented in the project “VOCALE”, presented by ODS at the Milano Design Week. In the exhibition, an audio track narrates the School through the words of its visitors. The voices are not only those of designers and creatives, but also those of local shopkeepers, factory workers and inhabitants of the area, as evidence of the profound impact ODS had on the entire community that revolves around Casino Padula. In fact, it is perhaps the message of an external visitor, Luca, a 50-year-old craftsman, that best embodies what the Open Design School experience has been for Matera.

selected professionals
external experts
It is a real-life social network, where a “like” becomes a “teach me”, as in a place of shared expertise at the intersection of practice and knowledge.
Luca, 50-year-old craftsman

Open data corner

At the centre of this platform, the data, now published in an open format. The Matera 2019 datasets are thus transformed into a digital commons that can inform, inspire and support new information and design practices for the local, national or international communities.

Below, you can download both the raw data related to the theme of this section and the aggregated data used for each of the above visualizations. You can also find more data in the site’s Open Data Center, which contains all the data available in the platform, or in our GitHub repo.

Data on events organized by the Open Design School, with information on the start date, speakers, number of participants and type of event (Open Talk / Open Review / Community Workshop / Other).
6.5 kB
Data on the materials used for the Open Design School's fittings, with information on the type of material (wood or metal) and length, area, weight or number of units.
4.67 kB
Anonymous data on the people involved with the Open Design School as designers, external experts, collaborators or staff members. For each person the field of profession and geographical origin is indicated.
4.34 kB
Data on the projects activated by the School, both the installations and the research / concept projects. For the installations, the location of the intervention is indicated, the recovered space, if any, and whether it was an unconventional space for cultural events.
5.75 kB
Matera open data