Experimentation, connections and field research: the residency projects for designers are a concentrate of experience for young talents in training. Here's what they consist of

There are places where knowledge is produced, in the field, by means of shared experiences. They are places of research, of experimentation and contamination. Prerogatives and consequences in no particular order, not of importance, because they are of equal value.

They are called residences for designers and are the answer to the need of young talents to be able to relate to the outside world which includes, among others, the dimension of work and professionalism also through support and promotion.

More recent and less familiar than artists' residences, they are situations in which for a defined period of time the designer is trained, supported, advised and stimulated, in order to increase his cultural baggage oriented towards productivity and to creativity.

How do designer residences work?

Designer residences can be organized in designated locations and for a predetermined number of weeks, as in the case of the Austrian Schloss Hollenegg for Design, founded by Alice Liechtenstein which hosts three to six designers a year, inviting them to stay in a wonderful baroque castle in Austria, for then to present to the public the projects on display in the May mass, a program completed in July by a series of Design Talks.

Or work in a hybrid version: an immersive week in the presence and 12 months (for a total year of experience) of meetings and relationships intended for the objective as proposed by the Turin project IN Residence.

Or even in workshop format. Witness the latter We Will Design - the permanent laboratory promoted by BASE Milano is aimed at young generations, universities, academies and places of training.

The interesting aspect lies in the fact that it is not a unilateral exchange, but, always universal. In fact, it is not uncommon for a young talent to influence tutors. Nor that a collective comes out of a residential experience, and not just an individual talent as it entered: an example is Many to Many , the group of 8 designers that they formed by coming out of Schloss Hollenegg for Design.

About this, Alice Liechtenstein tells us: "Today there is a great need for community and exchange. Although you can do so much online, or from your own studio or atelier, to be in new places, far from the daily activity, stimulates creativity. Furthermore, the exchange with other people helps to see one's work from perspectives different. Face-to-face is fundamental and creates opportunities for unexpected dialogue " .

Designer residences or traditional education?

The residences for designers do not replace the traditional school, nor do they represent an alternative to academies or classically understood educational courses, but they are a valiant complement to the human and productive formation of talent.

Dimensions of equal importance and not negligible for a designer who intends to create products for daily use.

About Barbara Brondi and Marco Rainò, founders of the cultural project IN Residence , born in 2008 in Turin: "The project was born as a complement to the conventionally understood teaching method. We believe that the laboratory experience is a formula capable of giving edges and vanishing points that can be associated with training provided by universities and specialized institutes".

IN Residence promotes a design very close to contemporary visual art, what over the years has been labeled Art Design and more recently Collectible Design.

"We believe in design based on design thinking, that's what we want to spread" continue Rainò and Brondi. "We are interested in intertwining the themes of materials, of production and all the phases that concern it. This is what triggers a process of reflection. This is why we involve designers which, in addition to issues of aesthetic-functional importance, address broader topics such as the relationship between man and object".

A place of research

"A substantial part of the IN Residence project has to do with the research experience, understood in various ways, because we add something to the work already in place and already implemented by the designers we involve. Both in the theme of thematic workshops, both in the residences, and in the events and exhibitions we organize" say Barbara Brondi and Marco Rainò.

Residences for artists and residences for designers

Trying to investigate the presence of Italian or foreign references, which can be inspired by the launch of realities such as IN Residence or Schloss Hollenegg for Design we found that in Italy we are more accustomed - and in a certain sense accustomed, thanks to the cultural background that distinguishes our country - to talk about 'residences for artists'. A form of contamination that has already been cleared for some time, but which encounters some obstacles when the central subject becomes the designer.

The history of industrial design that characterizes our country risks deviating the perception of places dedicated to creativity as a tool functional. With reference to the aforementioned example, in fact, one tends to immediately think of the 'romantic' and dreamlike declination of creativity, an interpretation that could encounter mistrust on the part of purists.

So where does the need to start residential projects for designers come from?

"The need to give life to this project is somewhat the interpretative key of the project itself. The construction of knowledge is the only lever that really interests us in contemporary society: it means dialogue, comparison, experience and experiment.

But also research, as we said. Producing knowledge today is the greatest contribution we can make to society to evolve. This is why the training project was born, later supported by the residence".

How important is the location

In the case of Schloss Hollenegg for Design, the talents find themselves in contact with a reality that already stimulates creativity from the host location: a castle with over 800 years of history, in the Austrian region of Styria.

Alice Liechtenstein tells us: "The castle has belonged to my husband's family since 1821 and when we moved there in 2014, I thought it was important to give new life to the dozens of museum rooms in the castle and open them to So I founded Schloss Hollenegg for Design , a non-profit institution with the aim of supporting emerging designers and sustaining a culture of design.

For me the host place counts a lot, even the mix of objects and references that surround you: it is a potential to be explored and a great inspiration for designers.

Then our castle is a bit out of this world: it is not isolated because there is everything you might need nearby, but there is another rhythm and, here, you can forget of the whole world focusing on the goal".

The response of the young people

Although traditional schools remain a firm basis from which to start training, the response from young talents seems to be growing: "In 2008, when IN Residence was born, the perception of the project was rather lukewarm.

The design we were talking about was not considered design but rather a artistic expression more suitable for academies.

Today the situation has changed, the barriers are softer both on the part of the institutions and on the part of the talents. However, we found that interest is higher on the part of international users. At the last thematic workshop organized at the Centro Pecci in Prato, which was attended by 24 young people, three quarters were foreigners".