On my first day at Fabrica, I held a meeting with all the staff and researchers. I talked about a few things, but the primary message was about the opportunity in moving to a transdisciplinary studio model.
The studio model I had in mind was drawn from long experience—the multidisciplinary teams I had created, or tried to create, at the BBC and Arup—and recent experience, in Helsinki, with the Strategic Design Unit model pursued with my ertswhile colleages, Bryan Boyer, Justin Cook and Marco Steinberg, and documented well here. And of course, the studio as the forum for design practice generally.
I had also drawn a lot from Alex Coles' useful book The Transdisciplinary Studio—not necessarily in any direct sense (I haven't implemented any details of the various studio practices described therein: Jorge Pardo Sculpture, Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design, Studio Olafur Eliasson & Åbäke) but more in terms of concept, of not simply mixing disciplines, but going beyond them. Given the sense that Fabrica could be a new kind of factory, helping invent and construct the future ("Fabrica" is drawn from the Latin faber, to make, and also suggests the Italian word for factory, fabbrica), I was particularly interested in the hybrid products that much emerge from the synthesis of disciplines into something new. As Piaget has it, going beyond the displines.
"Transdisciplinary: between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond each individual discipline." [Jean Piaget, referenced in Coles]
Fabrica was essentially organised into discipline-based departments—film, music, product design, graphic design and so on. Although some areas, like Design, or Interactive, had the beginnings of a multidisciplinary mix, the structure was something I wanted to address. (I suggested this in something I wrote called "The New Vision", which was an internal discussion document/book—more soon—to gauge peoples' opinions.)
Fabrica, in terms of the structure of its "engine" was not a million miles from many other studios and schools. elsewhere.
Given the rest of our world—institutional or otherwise—is largely organised into such disciplinary structures, which organisations turn into silos (disciplines need not be silos; it's organisations that do that) then what would be the point of Fabrica doing that too?
Following my colleague Marco Steinberg's thought that "we have 18th century institutions facing 21st century problems", can we create a 21st century organisation? Something that faces the 21st century, in all its hybridity and complexity, on its own terms? Something that might address 21st century issues with a more appropriate, flexible and complex creative toolkit?