During a week of hands-on experimentation and introspective sessions, the students of the Master in Design for Emergent Futures (MDEF) programme had the opportunity to forge a connection with a distinctive landscape and ecosystem, all while taking a break from the regular classes.
Every year, MDEF offers students the opportunity to connect to a unique landscape and ecosystem. This year, the chosen space was in the context of El Hierro, part of the Canary Islands, where they were able to reflect and put into practice some of the ideas, topics and techniques shared during the first year of the educational programme.
Each year, MDEF students are granted the opportunity to embark on a surprise trip in March to a location that offers valuable learning experiences. Past destinations include Mallorca and Shenzhen. The objective of these excursions is to provide students with a chance to disconnect from their daily routine and ongoing projects in the classroom, and instead immerse themselves in an unfamiliar environment with hands-on learning opportunities. Additionally, students are given the chance to participate in a shared experience, fostering new connections and strengthening existing relationships.
Not only does the location change each year, but the focus of the trip does as well. This year’s theme centered on inclusive and regenerative innovation for distributed, resilient futures. Traveling to El Hierro, the second-smallest of the Canary Islands, MDEF students spent a week conducting research and engaging in various activities dedicated to the topic. They had the chance to explore ecosystemic regeneration and the pursuit of resilience through interconnected practices, including intuition, material-driven experimentation, situational awareness, and embodied research. Furthermore, students delved into ecosystemic thinking, developing personal presence, conscience, and consciousness, and discovering ways to cultivate connections with nature as co-clients.
Students were provided with a unique opportunity to acquire advanced techniques for working within living ecosystems through exploratory visits, material experiments, and reflection sessions. This took place within the context of a unique island environment where prioritizing resilience and environmental preservation has become increasingly important over the past few decades.
Javier Morales, a representative from the local government, guided participants through the island’s technological advancements, resulting in their energy self-sufficiency. MDEF students were exposed to both traditional wisdom and modern technology during their trip. The topics covered included strategies for bringing happiness to communities, creating sustainable cooperatives, empowerment, water management, transportation, data management, tourism, organic farming, carbon sequestration, and housing. Each topic was accompanied by examples of projects that aimed to create a more resilient economy, focused on promoting happiness and resilience.
Visiting local projects related to energy production, sustainable agriculture, food production, ecological co-habitation, and local architecture was an excellent way for students to gain a comprehensive understanding of the concepts covered. These projects are crucial in helping El Hierro to develop and maintain new models of sustainability.
One of the most memorable experiences of the trip was a cultural tour in Taibique led by Octavio Barrera, the founder of Lava Circular at El Hierro. This event, not categorized as a festival, focuses on sustainability by presenting projects and initiatives related to the traditional and contemporary culture of the Canary Islands. Various creatives revitalized unique locations around El Hierro, sharing knowledge between participants, attendees, and local residents. The photographer and artist, Alexis W., the author of the collective project Ferro, which enhances the island’s identity through the process of making paints with sulfate iron, also joined the cultural tour to showcase some of the project’s interventions.
Another highlight was the visit to Gorona del Viento, a wind-pumped hydro power station that aims to supply the Island of El Hierro with clean and renewable electricity sources such as water and wind. The installation provided MDEF students with an exceptional example of energy self-sufficiency.
After being exposed to a range of diverse topics and projects, the students required a dedicated time and space for reflective sessions to shape their collective learning. To assist with this process, the UK artist Thomas Duggan, founder of a collaborative and multidisciplinary research studio that gives voice to the more-than-human world, provided various tools to help students record their individual experiences.
The outcome of the intensive week will be five-minute documentaries created by each participant, in which they will share their personal experiences. These videos will be combined to create a collective video that showcases how a week in a different context can result in a plethora of approaches, shaping a collective yet individual experience.