Step across the border: GIDE 2017

Isabella Vegni, Petra Bole, Davide Fassi, Bernhard Schmid-Wohlleber, Andrew Milligan, Nansi Van Geetsom, Na Wei, Isabella Vegni (Supervisor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


“Step Across the Border” was the working title of the Group for International
Design Education [GIDE] workshop week hosted by Interior Architecture at SUPSI, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland in February 2017.

It was co-edited by Andy Milligan et al and supervised by Isabella Vegni. The publication and workshop were coordinated by the GIDE international co-ordinator team with guest schools from China and led by the Bachelor of Arts in Interior Architecture SUPSI team.

The GIDE Lugano 2017 workshop theme “Step Across the Border” aimed to step beyond the visible reality and established way of analysing human spatial interactions in urban spaces by inviting interdisciplinary student teams from Visual Communication, Industrial and Interaction Design, Interior Architecture, Interior Environmental Design to explore the
sociology of space.

The “sociology” of space examines the social and material constitution of spaces. It is concerned with understanding the social practices, institutional forces and material complexities of how humans and spaces interact. This is important to examine as it challenges the dominant way in which we perceive and ‘read’ urban spaces and interiors.

Often, we allow our ocular centric tendencies to dominate our thinking as designers and
this can be further distorted by media [mis]representation of the built environment. However, if we can refocus our minds, and our eyes and recalibrate our attitudes as artists, we may begin to see different layers of human spatial interactions that were previously obscured. Human behaviours help us to understand, reflect and design spaces and time differently however, we seldom ‘taketime’ to look through new eyes and in an experiment with different tools to enrich our practice.

This workshop encouraged students to observe and investigate the sociology of spaces and places - rather than scan their surfaces - to discover and highlight what we can call “boundary moments” which are sometimes invisible for us. During the workshop interdisciplinary student teams focused on human behaviours which were being played out -perhaps unconsciously- by the user, but sometimes ‘beyond’ our normal visual radar somewhere in urban space around Lugano. Different design tools and methods were required to reveal these invisible boundaries.

Nine teams were required to use, as their urban muse, a specific area of the city of Lugano to explore the transitory or more prolonged interaction between human behaviours and the
spaces they occupied either fleetingly or for more prolonged periods of time. Teams were required to select two (in)visible “boundary moments” occurring in their selected site and
enacted by the people they were observing. Teams were required to explore interior and exterior urban spaces and focus their collective effort on only one of the observed “boundary moments”. This was later elaborated in a critical statement and a short video documentary. A further poster component supported the main concepts, observations,
and design rational for the work for the public.

The use of video film was deliberate - partly to acknowledge the dominant role this art form plays in young student’s social media encounters, but, more significantly, it reflected the experimental cinémavérité trigger “A Step Across the Border’ - an improvised film of the same name by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel presented in the opening symposium lecture.

During the exploration of each observable, heard, sensed or perceived “boundary moments” being played out in the site, teams were required to carefully observe users. Teams had to be guided by the people flow, human behaviours and the moments that occurred: a design approach that required improvisation. "it is the moment that counts, the intuitive sense of what is happening in the space" (Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel about the film “Step Across the Border").

The video documentary is in effect a spatial documentation, an inquiry, a design and a representation tool, able to capture and communicate the interactions between space and human behaviour in a specific timeframe. At the end of the workshop team videos were exhibited and presented to the public in an exhibition organized in the recently renovated Ex Macello of Lugano.

Local authorities and stakeholders where involved in the topic of the workshop. The students projects presented in this book are the results of the work of the nomad laboratory of GIDE. Following the experience of the workshop in Lugano, that launched and explored the theme “Step across the border”, the GIDE partner schools have been working in the winter semester with multidisciplinary studios on the common theme.

The common work theme has made contact with territories and with different approaches, scales, instruments, disciplines giving rise to a wide multidisciplinary panorama of design explorations representing an interesting discussion table for students, researchers, teachers.

Humbert N., Penzel W. (1990)(regia di), Step Across the Border. Rec Rec, Switzerland.

Löw M. (2016), The Sociology of Space – Materiality, Social Structures, and Action. Palgrave Macmillan US, New York.

Sergej S. (2008), Sociological concepts of space. Lecture, Berlin.

La Pietra U. (1979), Istruzioni per l’uso della città. Edizioni Plana.

ISABELLA VEGN - Lecturer, SUPSI, Lugano
SOPHIE MAFFIOLI- Studio It'S, Lugano
PAOLA TALLARICO- Studio It'S, Lugano

Andy Milligan was international coordinator from 2009-2022 and co-editor of GIDE the Group for International Design Education - an international network of art & design institutions who have, since 2003, collaborated annually in an EU city and delivered shared project themes which integrate flexibly into art school and university curricula. GIDE exists to enrich the creative and intercultural experiences of students’ and staff by providing regular interdisciplinary symposia, workshops, exhibitions and publications designed to help students engage with ethical design challenges and in operating effectively in future, global markets.

As a model of engagement, GIDE offers a far more effective, democratic and academically integrated alternative to Erasmus [ and now TURING]. by reaching greater numbers of student’s (and staff) through exciting events which encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, knowledge exchange and the sharing of design methods and creative processes.

A core feature of any GIDE experience involves ethical and site-specific projects which address societal challenges in collaboration with sponsors, local industry, researchers and creative & cultural organisations linked to the host city in which the workshop event occurs.

From 2023 onwards GIDE consists of seven partner institutions from leading schools in;

Dundee, (Scotland)
Belgrade (Serbia)
Madiera (Portugal)
Ljubljana, (Slovenia)
Mechelen, (Belgium)
Valencia (Spain)
Milano, (Italy)
Lugano, (Switzerland)

Previous members have included-

Jiangnan, Wuxi, (China)
Leeds, (England)
Magdeburg, (Germany)
Texas (USA)
Toronto, (Canada)
Breda, (Netherlands)

Each institution / nation nominates an International coordinator to contribute to strategic planning of events and exchanges.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLugano
PublisherGIDE Group for International Design Education
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2017


  • borders
  • international
  • art
  • design
  • interiors
  • collaboration


Dive into the research topics of 'Step across the border: GIDE 2017'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this