How can design discourse become more archipelagic, embracing a multiplicity of questions and perspectives? The first edition of Archipelago, a festival that takes place in Geneva and online from 6 to 8 May, arose from this question and attempts to find answers in three days of workshops and conversation.

Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse. Working model. Students from HEPIA Genève. Tutors: Emma Fuller, Romain Legros. Assistants: Alice Proux, Sophie Herzog, Viviane Mentha. Photo credit: Alice Proux

The initiative began in two schools in Geneva, both part of the HES⁠-⁠SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland: HEAD, Geneva School of Art and Design and HEPIA, Geneva School of Engineering, Architecture and Landscape. “The departments of architecture, interior architecture and landscape architecture have been collaborating in courses for the past three years” says Vera Sacchetti, one of the organizers, “now, the collaboration has become a structural reflection on the essence of design today, on the interaction between disciplines, and on the future of studying architecture”.

Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse. Site visits, sourcing materials for scenography project. Students from HEPIA Genève. Tutors: Emma Fuller, Romain Legros. Assistants: Alice Proux, Sophie Herzog, Viviane Menth. Photo credit images 1-9: Romain Legros. Photo credit images 10-13: Emma Fuller

Historically, Switzerland is a country of great architects, but the festival does not focus on the past. It looks to the future, the new generation, addressing the students, who have also been involved in choice of discussion topics. The structure of the festival also reflects this: it includes workshops meant to induce thinking in a practical context, and conversations about the great issues of our times. "We often attend conferences in which an important architect explains the world in a prescriptive way" says Vera Sacchetti, "Archipelago, on the other hand, means to start new dialogues to reach new conclusions.” The speakers come from the many disciplines and includes participants that reflect this diversity: Léopold Lambert, an architect and writer; Valérie Cabanes, a jurist and environmentalist; Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, an urban designer who focusses on gender politics; Pooja Agrawal, an architect and urban designer; Mariana Pestana, the curator of the 5th Istanbul Biennale; Dele Adeyemo, who works on capitalism and colonialism; the Italian curator Silvia Franceschini; Marco Ferrari from Studio Folder; and Sofia Pia Belenky a researcher and designer from Space Caviar studio; and many others. The conversations will take place at HEAD. “We have created a setting with raw elements collected in the environs of Geneva, such as stones and wood,” says Vera Sacchetti. "Once the event is over, they will be taken back to where they were found.”

Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse. Workshop Trojans Collective, Semaine de tous les possibles, HEAD Genève. Tutors: Trojans Collective. Assistants: Phi Nguyen. Students: Mathis Baltisberger, Amalia Chraïti, Yannick de Kalbermatten, Toscane Donzé, Juliette Gaultier, Claire Guignet, Blinera Haliti, Nessim Kaufmann, Lajci Aurora, Elise Le Page, Hsuan Lee, Aurore Mesot, Estelle Quarino, Pauline Riegler, Martin Zambaz. Photo credit: Alicia Dubuis

The conversations will touch upon a variety of topics related to the discourse on design and architecture today, beginning with the question: Do we still have to build? And what should we build? From that point of departure, the conversations will unveil questions that have remained hidden, plumbing the depths of the field of intervention of   various disciplines, touching upon issues like the lack of resources at the planetary level, the privatization of public space, capitalism, post-colonialism, indigenous knowledge, the climate crisis, surveillance, including the canon of architecture and the knowledge system on which teaching is based. “We are facing a great turning point - says Vera Sacchetti - but it is also a time for hope, in which it is necessary to find new ways of doing architecture”. The answer seems to be in new ways of collaborating to be more sustainable, in activism, and in a new idea of the architect as civil servant, as well as a consideration of other perspectives that do not put the human being at the center of discourse.