At the core of the event is Fragilitas, a three-part exhibition at the recently reopened site of La Boverie. Handle with Care, curated by Nawal Bakouri, is a selection of objects, spaces, graphics and systems that reveal the dialogue and distance between cure and care. From innovative therapeutic communities for those with Alzheimer’s to wearable IVs, the works demonstrate that disability, disease or old age should be no barrier to beauty, desire, hope, fun and freedom.

It is a message echoed by Design for (every)one. Curated by Lieven De Courver, who leads D4E1, a micro living lab at Howest University that implements open-design principles within disability contexts, it’s a hacker’s paradise. Hacks to allow people to shower, play, walk, and even smoke more independently, this co-creation contrast to universal design is the result of makers, occupational therapists, and disabled people joining forces to create local assistive tools that enhance social participation.

Handle with Care curated by Nawal Bakouri. Image by Marc Wendelski
The third exhibition in Fragilitas is Precarious Architecture & Design. One of the ideas proposed by curator and architect Jean-Philippe Possoz is that architects and designers should look at the potential of fragility.

Never exploitative, this approach sees an articulated series of performances by founder of Alive Architecture, Petra Pferdmenges, to question and stimulate the interactions between different users of a street in Brussels renowned for its levels of prostitution. For this section Possoz, together with RECIPROCITY’s artistic director Giovanna Massoni, also invited Paolo Cascone of CODESIGNLAB to make a contribution.

Precarious Architecture & Design. Image by Marc Wendelski
The miner’s house is a striking installation that Cascone describes as ‘an urban micro-infrastructure, to develop both an archive (memories, tools, material systems, etc.) and a space of production.’ Drawing on Liège’s mining history, and the way in which industrialisation and migration are intrinsically linked, the collaborative project is part of his research on the relationship between natural materials, local resources and new digital manufacturing processes.

Back in town, curators Massoni and Anna Bernagozzi, present The New (Learning) Objects at the Musée de la Vie wallonne, which gathers together 80 projects from students largely on Master’s courses in design schools across Europe. A result of an international call for entry, it’s a pedagogical snapshot of what direction design education is taking and the issues that today’s students and tomorrow’s designers are engaged with.

The New (Learning) Objects. Image by Marc Wendelski
The New (Learning) Objects. Image by Marc Wendelski
Massoni acknowledges that social design can be difficult to exhibit. As she points out, many of the exhibitions in RECIPROCITY emerged from workshops and have been as long as two years in the making, actively involving local communities, organisations and educational institutes. For her, this feels like a particularly fragile time, ‘but if we continue to think we are building and producing in the right way we are wrong, and sustainable production is not enough to effect change. There needs to be a paradigm shift – the topics we have raised, such as poverty, disability and old age, have given rise to new production methods and philosophies.’

RECIPROCITY design liège, various locations throughout Liège and in partner cities Hasselt, Kerkrade, Aachen and Maastricht, until 25 November 2018, reciprocityliege.be

RECIPROCITY design liège is an initiative of the Provincial Deputy – President in charge of Culture and President of the Office Provincial des Métiers d’Art de Liège, and is managed together with Wallonie Design, walloniedesign.be

The New (Learning) Objects. Image by Marc Wendelski
The New (Learning) Objects. Image by Marc Wendelski
The New (Learning) Objects. Image by Marc Wendelski