DRS Labs

A new initiative for DRS2022 is the “DRS Labs”. With this initiative – piloted for the first time this year – the DRS encourages design researchers to engage with local organisations in a defined project that brings direct benefits to the local region, engages conference participants and wider publics, and demonstrates the potential that design research can bring to diverse industries, institutions, and communities.

The city of Bilbao identified four challenges or issues that are particularly relevant to the hosting city and the surrounding region:

  • Urban Habitat: Urban public space and mobility. How will our interconnected society change the way that we move, the physical configuration of our streets, and even the types/shapes of vehicles and our relations with them?
  • Digital Ecosystems: Digital platforms, IoT and AI for the early detection and prevention of social isolation and loneliness, especially in the context of ageing.
  • Cultural Heritage: Transformation of the architectural industrial heritage of Bilbao to mixed economical, educational and cultural activities sites.
  • Creative industries and public space: How does the desire of cities to support creative expression at all levels coexist with the everyday life of residents?

Five international LAB proposals have been selected to tackle the challenges.

Zorrotzaurre: Images, community and partnerships in practice


Faculty of Fine Arts, Universidad del País Vasco/ Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea

University of the Arts, London College of Communication



LAN Workers’ Audiovisual Festival

Imajik Design Factory


Karkaba Espazio



Natxo Rodriguez


For decades debates have centred around the photographer’s practice as ‘taker’ of images, the so-called weaponisation of the camera. More than ever such critical and urgent conversations are being had with high-profile photographers and photographic agencies such as Magnum being challenged on their ethical stance and codes.

How can we as creatives confidently make meaningful work that is both in collaboration with and respect of established communities? This project will use the specificity of the island of Zorrotzaurre to explore such possibilities and in doing so look to create time-framed visual responses to the Island – past, present and future.

This Lab is a milestone in the work process initiated in October 2021 by a group of teachers and students from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the UPV/EHU and the London College of Communication of UAL, in collaboration with other local agents. The meeting at DRS2022 will focus on the presentation and discussing of the students’ proposals, specific projects for the context of the Ribera neighbourhood, which will be exhibited in November 2022 at the Bizkaia Aretoa.


Urban Fabric


IED/Kunsthal Bilbao

University of the Arts


URBAN FABRIC LAB focuses on the island of Zorrotzaurre, one of the latest examples and stages of Bilbao’s transformation process. It is part of DRS22 challenge 3 – CULTURAL HERITAGE – through which the transformation of industrial heritage is reflected. 

All spaces have stories to tell. Every material, threshold, and object represents various forms of individual and collective thought and endeavor to texture our lives. Depending on how these aspects come together, a unique sense of atmosphere and environmental perspective for future generations can be created. As interior and spatial designers, we co-operate with and translate these stories, understanding the past, observing the present to project a sustainable future for everybody. Weaving a narrative through writing, drawing and making, we craft patterns of behaviour, relationship and memory. 

URBAN FABRIC LAB is the culmination of the work process developed by interior and spatial design students from IED Kunsthal and UAL, during the 21/22 academic year.  Throughout the process, there has been a team on the ground (IED Kunsthal) and another remote team (UAL) developing the analysis and proposals.

The work carried out to date focuses on research of the site by IED Kunsthal students, which has been developed using Kevin Lynch’s postulates in «The image of the city» as a guide.

The understanding of the site and the relationship that each student established with it through the research process is synthesized by UAL students in a VISUAL ESSAY and a TEXTILE MAP OF THE SITE. It culminates with the preparation of a project brief outline focused on the transformation of an emblematic industrial building on the island of Zorrotzaurre: the ARTIACH FACTORY.

The URBAN FABRIC LAB will be the opportunity for representatives of both teams to share time, space and experiences through different activities such as workshops, exhibitions and a final presentation.



*Exhibition of urban fabric mappings of the current condition of Zorrotzaurre and design proposals for the future of the island produced by BA (hons) Interior and Spatial Design from University of Arts London with support from design students from IED, Kunsthal during the 2021-22 academic year.

From June 29th to 3th of july

*Co-creation workshops of a large-scale urban fabric map, a snapshot of time of Zorrotzaurre stitched / sewn by staff and students form IED and UAL with local stakeholders. The creation of the map will be accompanied by guided walks to capture and record what’s good, what needs to be preserved and supported, what’s changing, will change or needs to change.

30th of June and 1st of July 10.00 – 13.00

*Presentation on the work process and some of the proposals for the Artiach space.

1st of July 16.00

The Echoing River


University of the Arts London

Mondragon Unibertsitatea

Bilbao Biodesign Centre



John Fass, University of the Arts, London College of Communication

Alaistair Steele, University of the Arts, London College of Communication

Tyler Fox, University of Washington


Through our LAB we seek to exemplify an approach for how the city can involve people in experimental, hands-on creative work that activates the built environment. Twenty people will join us for a week of creative exploration on the post industrial riverfront. Working with partners including Espacio Open, Bilbao Biodesign Center and students from Mondragon University, we will introduce participants to creative placemaking using sound and bio-design.

Sensing in the Wild


DCODE Network (dcode-network.eu)

School of Architecture, Universidad del País Vasco, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea



Carlos Guerrero Millan, University of Edinburgh

Seda Özçetin, Umeå University

Mugdha Patil, Amsterdam University of Applied Science

Grace Turtle, Delft University of Technology



Roy Bendor, Delft University of Technology

Chris Speed, University of Edinburgh


Have you ever considered yourself to be a part of a sensing system? In this workshop, participants will engage with performative Real Game Play (RGP) and auto – ethnographic modes of design inquiry that can be used to stretch imaginaries into the unknown. By embodying different human and non – human roles, participants will tune into the vibrations of urban sensing systems.

The workshop invites up to 16 participants to a speculative, textured, embodied analysis of urban sensing systems. We expect to incite awareness of the possibilities and consequences that open, distributed and decentralised systems could provide for future urban design practices. The workshop is motivated by the following questions:

  • What if urban sensing systems, deployed in cities, moved from control – based, closed and centralised modes of sensing to more commons – based, open and distributed modes of sensing? 
  • How then might urban sensing systems celebrate the diversity, layered history and rich cultural tapestry of place in their de sig n and use?


Data Storytelling Lab


MIT Senseable Cities Labs

Universidad de Deusto, Department of Design



Martina Mazzarello, MIT Senseable Cities Lab

Simone Mora, MIT Senseable Cities Lab


The amount of data generated daily gives a unique opportunity to cities to propose evidence-based and data-driven solutions—to enhance public spaces to model urban development. However, this situation entails tradeoffs between benefits and privacy concerns in data-driven solutions. Such tradeoffs vary in different sociodemographic and cultural contexts. In order to measure how different stakeholders perceive such tradeoffs in Bilbao, we propose participatory activity in the form of a card game: dataslots.

Rather than traditional polls or surveys in which city managers or developers propose solutions and residents only voice their opinion, or even workshops with residents, which are commonly guided by experts, we remove top-down approaches in a way that residents come up with their own ideas among themselves, give an opinion on each other’s proposals in terms of benefits and privacy concerns, and even decide which ideas they would invest in—and during the whole process, dataslots serve as a gathering data tool. Dataslots not only can be used to reveal residents’ tradeoffs between privacy concerns and benefits of the data-driven solution but become a community engagement tool the city can use during its planning process, involving residents, people from academia and city officials.



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