Grow | Degrow. Design between Excess and Calculus

Interdisciplinary Symposium, May 20, 2016
Köln International School of Design, TH Köln

Organized by Carolin Höfler and Philipp Heidkamp

Today, excess is ubiquitous, unmitigated, and absolute. Modern economy structurally subsists on immoderateness that manifests in high-risk finance economy, necessity of steady growth, demand for increasing profits, and immense consumption. Not only western societies face this tremendous ecological impact caused by high consumption of goods and resources – widely occurring without control, governance or taking into account long-term consequences. Persistent hopes that an economic growth can be sustainable or climate-friendly through technological progress continuously vanish.

At the same time, massive systemic changes lie ahead which are connected to the end of the historically unprecedented growth era that began 200 years ago as a result of industrialization. Climate change, shortage of fossil energy, demographic aging, and rationalizations in the service sector are primarily regarded as reasons for current and future shrinking processes which immediately have influence on politics, economy and society.

The demand for alternatives is no longer addressed to natural and technical sciences alone, but also encompasses all design, art, cultural, and creative disciplines. The question of how design and architecture can contribute to new outlines of society and cities, which are not necessarily oriented towards rising production and increasing consumption, is more pressing than ever. How can processes, situations, and systems be comprehended and designed which open up new action patterns and scopes beyond the paradigm of growth? Which new paradigms in the disciplines of design and architecture are necessary for this? The British anthropologist Timothy Ingold postulates a shift in perspectives – away from objects and products as fixed and ultimate entities, and towards a modeled environment as a force field and circulation system of resources, energies, and substances. How would, if embraced and realized, such an understanding change the practice of design? And can this approaches, concepts, and developments really stop the excessiveness and the need for more? Or do they just put these terms to another level and simply transform them into other kinds of renunciation and control – managed and operated under the same system of intemperance and excess?

With an eye toward these issues, the symposium discusses the meaning of sustainability and post growth economy from various disciplinary perspectives and elaborates on experimental design positions and speculative projects on how to deal with finite resources.

Poster _Design: Oliver Köneke


May 20, 2016

9:15 am
Sylvia Heuchemer, TH Köln

Philipp Heidkamp and Carolin Höfler


9:30 am
Gerhard M. Buurman, Zurich University of the Arts:
The Mass Consumption of Ideas. Design and the Arts of Social Intercourse

10:15 am
Dirk Hohnsträter, University of Hildesheim:
Designing Degrowth. Paradoxes and Perspectives

11:00 am


11:15 am
Stephanie Haury and Stephan Willinger, Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, Bonn:
X-Town 2025. Scenario of a Co-Creative City

12:00 pm
Harald Gründl, EOOS Design / Institute of Design Research Vienna:
Social Furniture

12:45 pm


1:30 pm
Judith Dörrenbächer, Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences:
Performative Experiments. New Modes of Critique and Subjectivity Provoked by Design

2:15 pm
Gionata Gatto, Studio Gionata Gatto, Rotterdam:
Geomerce. An Enquiry on the Growth of Plants, Agriculture and Finance to Re-Imagine Speculative Future Economies

03:00 pm


3:15 pm
Johannes Lang, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar:
Aesthetics as Key Category for Psychological Longevity

4:00 pm
Karin de Miguel Wessendorf, filmmaker, Cologne:
Economy Without Growth. A Journey to Alternatives in Europe

4:45 pm
Summary Roundtable
Moderation, Marc Pfaff, Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Technische Hochschule Köln
Köln International School of Design
Ubierring 40
50678 Köln

All presentations are in English. The symposium is open to the public. No fees required.

Further information and registration: