Valena Ammon (Hurra Hurra Festival)

The design education festival Hurra Hurra is the result of an interdisciplinary term project in summer 2019 at the Design Campus of Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle. It is mainly curated, designed, organized, and produced by design students from the design department at Burg Giebichenstein. Together they have developed non-hierarchical working structures and new communication culture in the semester project, researched and invited the participants for the program, designed the spatial structure, and identified technical requirements. The festival is by students for students. It discusses what content we want to deal with in design studies and, above all, how we want to learn.

What impact your experience studying design had on the way you perceive the discipline and the practice of it?

Studying design, I learned, of course, a lot about looking at things, objects, and rooms but also to think about processes and how people live in our world. When I first started studying design, I had a very narrow mindset about the discipline. But now I know design can include much more. It includes objects and products but also rooms, how we deal with objects, rituals, food, and so on. It is also bringing people together. It contains the thinking about why we want to change something. Design should change the world for the better, I think.

I also learned that sometimes the most simple looking design objects are the ones that are most complex to produce and have a lot of concepts behind it. As a designer, you have to think in several layers. Another aspect I have learned is that even though people like art, craft, and design, they are often not willing to pay a reasonable price for it.

How did "Hurra Hurra" first start? Was there any particular motivation that led to the creation of the project?

We had two professors, Christian Zöllner and Matthias Görlich, who were interested in looking into how design education has changed in the past and still need to change nowadays. So in the context of the 100 years of the Bauhaus, they thought it would be a good idea to teaming up and apply for the jubilee fund to make the Hurra Hurra project happen.

They introduced the project to the students, explaining how they wanted to create an event to discuss design education, which had a lot to do with the format of the event and how to shape it in a way that would allow us to have an in-depth discussion on the topic of design education.

The students who applied to be part of the project mainly came from different departments, which is quite unusual for our university. There was a range of different motivations - some were not happy with how their last projects were led, some were really interested in educational systems, and some had the feeling that they are not prepared to step into the 'real' world after their bachelor’s.

Being mostly a student-organized initiative, how did you structure the project? How was the process of decision-making and production?

At first, everyone picked one topic concerning design education. For example, design education in the past 100 years, reform pedagogies, how our university is structured, which activist student groups exist at art and design universities, and how does space and architecture influence educational practice.

We presented the results of our research into those topics to each other and discussed it. Then during the first months of the project, we went to festivals and events to have a look at how other people have organized events around this topic so that we could have an idea and decide what formats we like or not. Part of the participants went to Italy to visit Brave New Alps, a design studio that is concerned with design education and how precarious the situation of people working in art and design can be. We discussed how education is connected to such issues. In addition, the people working in these projects showed us their practice and efforts in developing social design in the context of where they live.

Further development of the project also included a weekly plenum or big gathering. There, we would discuss how we wanted to work and how to organize the event. We split into smaller groups (communication, curation, space, and organization)and used those meet-ups to update the groups on the overall progress.

Regarding the organization, at first, we didn't have rules for the conversation, which we later realized was resulting in a certain imbalance. Some people would end up speaking for a longer time than others - mostly professors or assistants. For that reason, we decided that one person would always lead the conversation while the rest would signal (raising hands, for example) to show approval or the urge to say something or to show that the speaking time was long and the person should resume and get to an end soon. As those conversations took a lot of time, it became clear we had to change our organizational structure. Those adjustments happened several times. As a result of constant adaptation during the project, professors and assistants got to an eye-level with the students.

How was the project received by the university? Did it have any kind of encouragement or, on the contrary, any type of resistance?

To be honest, some parts of the faculty were not very supportive. Even though the project was presented to the rectorate and small meetings were held to keep them updated, we still faced some kind of resistance or a lack of collaboration from parts of the institution. For instance, the group in charge of sorting rooms that could be used for the festival had a few problems. Most professors showed support, which we are very thankful for, but a portion of them did not allow us to occupy the space for pure distrust that we would keep the rooms in order. This made things hard at times.

But on the other hand, some people really put a lot of effort and helped to make the festival happen. In the end, we were surprised by how much of what we planned worked out, things that we did not expect to be allowed. Some people from the organizational structure of the university were really critical, but that also encouraged us to make sure we took all possible safety measures, for example.

We advertised the project within the university throughout the semester and tried to get people to engage and participate in the decision process. We asked them who they would like to invite as guests, what topics they wanted to be discussed, which workshops could take place during the event, etc. Unfortunately, not as many students and professors from our university took part in it as we expected. But from the portion who participated, they seemed to enjoy and gave us positive feedback.

And finally, could you share what have been your main learnings from this experience?

I learned a lot about organization. How to speak to people and how to get connected to people. It was a massive project, and I think everyone in the team was overwhelmed by what we managed to achieve in the end. Of course, looking back and reflecting, we also know that there are many things we would do completely different and things that did not work. The most rewarding part was to see people getting connected and sharing the same goals and the need to change things.