The world’s biggest social challenges are reflected in the way we design our spaces. Privatization of public space, lack of affordable housing, dark design and spatial segregation are just some of the most common causes and manifestations of urban inequality that characterize contemporary cities. While holding the potential to reproduce these inequalities, inscribing them further into space, design can also work to oppose discrimination, propelling equity and inclusion.
Much of the action taken to contrast the material expressions of inequality happens on a small scale, through gestures of everyday life, and might even go unnoticed. It manifests via simple designs that are mindful of the needs of all users and help combat the marginalization of minority communities and of more vulnerable individuals, in cities and rural contexts all around the world. These stories contain the knowledge to be gained from inventive individuals, everyday space users, centenary traditions and resilient communities that stand against extractive and neoliberal capitalism. Yet, they often go untold.
- Action is needed
Which local interventions are being devised around the world to meet the challenges posed by environmental degradation? Which spaces allow marginalized groups to feel included in urban life? Which inventive designs allow underprivileged individuals to survive the injustices of the city? Pressed by the urgency of these questions and with the intention to give voice to the underrepresented makers of urban space, Copenhagen Architecture Festival (CAFx) launched the Film Mosaic: Leave No One Behind, a global short film competition focusing on inclusive design solutions found in the built, grown and planned environment.
The theme of the Film Mosaic pivots on the United Nation’s ‘Leave No One Behind’ agenda (LNOB), “the unequivocal commitment of all UN Member States to eradicate poverty in all its forms, end discrimination and exclusion, and reduce the inequalities and vulnerabilities that leave people behind and undermine the potential of individuals and of humanity as a whole.” (“Universal Values”). Josephine Michau, founder and director of CAFx, explains:
“The starting point for launching the Film Mosaic platform is to spread knowledge about the LNOB agenda and gain new local perspectives on solutions to the challenges it outlines. We want to document and create an understanding of the diversity of the reality in which the LNOB agenda must be resolved, and contribute with new knowledge and insights regarding how we create inclusive cities, residential areas, buildings, infrastructure, etc. around the world.”
The competition calls for maximum three-minute-long films that document personal experiences of inclusive design, narrate positive examples of everyday spatial initiatives from different geographical contexts, and offer concrete insights about non-discriminatory designs, inclusive spaces and urban practices that promote the fight against inequality. All the short films received are collected on the Film Mosaic open-source online platform, a versatile open-ended archive that can provide more comprehensive and detailed understandings of the many simple ways in which inclusive design practices are adopted by people on the ground to benefit all users of space, human and non-human alike
- Inclusivity is Needed
The ambitions of the LNOB agenda are increasingly being endorsed by designers and architects—LNOB is the overarching theme of next year’s International Union of Architect’s World Conference and the framework for many recent architectural research publications. Undeniably, space practitioners are becoming more aware that the forms of discrimination built into our material landscapes not only reflect the world’s structural social inequalities, but also work insidiously to reproduce them on all scales. From urban furniture to urban plans and from materials to building projects, the risk of perpetuating spatial discrimination is as big as the potential to change normative allocations of spatial privilege through inclusive design interventions.
Tendentiously, the way we design our spaces has been modeled around the experience of a prototypical abled, neurotypical, white, cisgender, heterosexual, affluent male user, implicitly or explicitly excluding socially, physically or mentally vulnerable people or groups discriminated against due to their gender identity, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, limited mobility or income. Architecture itself has been accused on many fronts for its inherent bias against those who are underrepresented in a white-male-dominated field, and for its complicity in the ecological destruction caused by the building industry. We see that many designers, architects and planners from around the world are responding to the necessity of rethinking their practice, reorienting it towards more inclusive and participatory solutions that benefit and give voice to those who are most often excluded from prescriptive space-making. The Film Mosaic wants to function as a catalyst for this new movement within architecture and design:
“With a global Film Mosaic, we can not only increase awareness, but also mobilize for action with the spread of ideas about how local solutions can create value in a larger global perspective.” (Josephine Michau)
- Film is needed
Insisting on the potential of film to ferment meaningful exchanges of knowledge, CAFx chose a short film competition as a means to mobilize people from underrepresented communities around the globe to document experiences of inclusive design in their locality. Film, whether produced with professional or amateur technologies, is an impactful tool accessible to almost anyone. It is effortless to circulate across borders in our current media environment. Even through simple narratives, film offers itself as the perfect medium to communicate the lived dimension of space (Bruno) of inclusive design.
Building on a well-established tradition of research on the interconnection between film and architecture, CAFx identified film as the privileged weapon to disseminate effectively the knowledge collected through the Film Mosaic open call, which we believe can open new conversations about the cities we want to create and inspire decision-makers and spatial practitioners working to achieve more equitable social futures. The more we become aware of architecture's resilient and regenerative potential, the more we will demand it from authorities and practitioners around the world. With the Film Mosaic: Leave No One Behind, we hope to raise awareness and propel knowledge exchange about sustainable and inclusive spatial design, using short films to amplify the human and non-human voices that are seldom heard.
- Reflections are needed
The exploration of these issues continues on ArchDaily with a series of articles addressing the interconnection of film and architecture and the urgency of creating better spaces for all. Copenhagen Architecture Festival has invited experts on film and architecture and researchers focused on inclusive design and planning to contribute to this critical conversation. Some contributions will unpack the relation between the fields, while others will examine how design and architecture, with the support of film as a democratic narrative tool, can help resolve the UN’s Leave No One Behind agenda on the ground.
In the articles that will be published throughout the year until Summer 2023, expect to read about the social and environmental impact of architecture, to explore intersectional approaches to inclusive urban planning, to delve into film’s potential to capture and communicate the phenomenological dimension of spatial experience, and to learn about the necessity to implement non-discriminatory design solutions where you least expect it.
As the article series unfolds, you will be able to watch a selection of the best films from the Film Mosaic competition.
The Film Mosaic: Leave No One Behind film competition open call looks for films addressing inclusive architectural or design solutions found in the built, planned and/or grown environment
- max 3 min. long,
- deadline: 1st of March 2023
- prize: 1st: 2500€; 2nd 1500€; 3rd: 1000€
Films are received on a daily basis and published ongoingly on the Film Mosaic platform.
With the aim of facilitating the production of short films, since Summer 2021 Copenhagen Architecture Festival has been conducting film & architecture workshops with a focus on inclusivity and filmmaking in close collaboration with local partner institutions around the world.