The students of Design for the Living World understand design as the production of ‘relational objects’ (i.e. objects that establish relationships). Relational objects are used by the people in a community as tools for changing their culture of living. They are catalysts of change.

In the project Tromsø – A City as a Garden, in the spring of 2013, the relational objects we created with the Tromsø community were five felt-making machines, a yurt, a rocket stove, the marked Tromsø Commune territory, and three maps created during the World Cafe session at the Troms County House – ‘Land and Water’, ‘Self-Construction’, and ‘Food’.

In the future – which begins now as we speak – these relational objects can be joined by others: a community compost box in every neighbourhood as part of a decentralized compost system, a community-managed recycling centre where building materials can be reused for do-it-yourself construction, and a greenhouse where local vegetables are grown with the help of the captured heat from the heating plant. At the moment, the excess heat disappears into the air, but it can be reused to contribute to the energy sustainability of Tromsø.

We know that if you want to bring change to society for a more sustainable culture of living, it is not enough to talk. The relational object, as a hands-on experience, is what matters.

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