Over the last two centuries, the human species has developed an economic model based on the infinite growth through the use of supposedly infinite natural resources, that gives precedence to economic benefits over caring for biological and social systems. These days a transition to a new production paradigm is needed. 

The Master in Design for Distributed Innovation (MDDI) enables a global network to pursue the purpose of the Fab City global initiative to change the global production and design system through a professional formation. Design takes on a new role in the constellation of planetary crises that have been caused by our current industrial model, through which design originally became a revered discipline.

Over the last two centuries, the human species has refined technology and infrastructure for the movement of atoms on a planetary scale in the form of raw materials, using energy sources associated with fossil fuels; it has also transformed these materials into consumer goods, thanks to industrial processes that generate high emissions and an enormous amount of waste.

This economic model, which is based on infinite growth through the use of supposedly infinite natural resources, gives precedence to economic benefits over caring for biological and social systems. In reality, the labor, energy and raw materials associated with most of the products people consume are not cheap as they are advertised, because their environmental and social impacts are not gauged within the real costs of any product or company. Under this linear model, urban morphology and dynamics have developed with mainly neoliberal economic rationales, around infrastructures for the movement of atoms (airports, ports and roads), with products such as cars, trucks, trains or airplanes, since most of the knowledge development and advances of the 20th century focused on these technologies.

Cities are responsible for the majority of CO2 emissions and also constitute the largest concentration of the population on the planet. These impacts will continue to increase, so the population must envision and implement an economic model of the city that is regenerative as regards the systems on which it depends; that allows cultural diversity in relation to the generation and circulation of value on a local scale; whose principles include logics of care among all the natural systems that play a role therein, including its inhabitants; and that facilitates the integration of technologies, at the service of people, technologies that interact in the city and its bioregions, and not the other way around.

The Fab City global initiative – conceived between Barcelona and Boston – proposes a change in the production paradigm to a new one in which atoms stop traveling thousands of kilometers to get to our hands and stomachs; on the contrary, they mostly circulate locally. In Fab Cities, bits of information travel great distances around the planet, thanks to the digital revolution in telecommunications and computation, and emerging digital manufacturing technologies.

Digital fabrication will become the key to developing over the upcoming decades an urban model focused on the development of locally productive cities and bioregions that are globally connected. Local manufacturing and production could help to increase the resilience of citizens and enable them to regain the ability to meet the needs of their local communities, providing them with technology that could help to:

  • Promote the production of a large quantity of food in proximity to urban centers, reducing energy consumption in transport, improving its nutritional quality and transparency in supply chains;
  • Transform the energy production model on a local scale, using complementary micro-generation and distribution technologies;
  • Increase the use of new raw materials from materials considered waste, associated with increased demand for existing industrial capacity in cities and peri-urban areas;
  • Reduce the movement of materials on a global scale and excess production, since cities can produce what they need on demand, using mostly local materials;
  • Rethink the urban infrastructure necessary to provide cities with the capacity to be productive, and also to transform the urban metabolism, including bio-digesters, bio-refineries, material libraries, flexible factories and fab labs as learning and prototyping centres;
  • Develop repositories of designs and new open-source technologies for the regeneration of vital natural systems in cities and in their bio-regions;
  • Increase the technological sovereignty of cities, thanks to the increase in infrastructure and training, with the aim of having a local innovation model, connected to knowledge networks on a global scale.

MDDI Distributed Approach

To transition to a new production paradigm, a shift is needed towards how we learn to, from and with design by imagining new processes to reconfigure the relationship between humans and the natural ecosystems around them, and methodologies and approaches rethought to learn and understand how to design from and for diverse contexts.

Using the success of the distributed learning program, Fab Academy as a basis, MDDI creates a global campus where nodes offer students access to fab lab facilities to prototype and bring ideas to life. Creating a 21st century digital education network of design, technology and bioregional principles the program blends the best of digital and physical learning environments.

MDDI is a practical program based on emergent theoretical approaches thanks to the experience of Fab Lab Barcelona, IAAC, the Global Fab Lab Network along with worldwide researchers and practitioners. Offering a novel learning experience, connecting faculty and students from all over the world with distributed infrastructure for digitally fabricating (almost) anything, generating a 21st-century educational platform aligned with contemporary digital-physical relationships, diversity,, globalisation and localisation.

Through these structures students will have the unique chance to learn online in their local cities from faculty, researchers, practitioners and students from all over the world, but at the same time to prototype and impact in their living places, by developing and implementing technology-based implementations of new technologies, design methodologies and implementation strategies.

Students will have access to digital manufacturing laboratories equipped with all the digital and analog prototyping tools and necessary infrastructure for the development of classes, assignments and projects. Also, to ensure the quality of the learning experience, compliance with the learning process and support in the development of students projects, each node will have local instructors who will be the articulators of this distributed learning network. Accompanying students in their process by providing practical and methodological support.

A multilayer and scalable methodology

MDDI is designed using the multiscale approach outlined by the Fab City global initiative. This layered approach forms the basis of the program, framing the methodological approach to conceptualising transformational change.

Fab City Full Stack

The Fab City Full Stack is a working taxonomy developed by the Fab City Foundation to organise and implement projects at different scales. Composed of complementary and non-linear layers for cities, regions and towns, to make the Fab City implementation in a multiscalar and ecosystemic approach operational. Each interconnected layer is a space of practice and deployment, scaling Fab Lab experiences to a bioregional level in a systemic approach.

Do you to want to know more about the role of design nowadays?

Discover here the Master in Distributed Design for Innovation (MDDI).