Design

London Design Biennale: Luis Ramirez & Michel Aguilar 

Cultured Magazine

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Rendering of PARWIFI. Courtesy of designers.

Cuba’s burgeoning wifi areas in pubic spaces were the starting point for Luis Ramirez and Michel Aguilar’s installation at London Design Biennale. They created PARWIFI, a series biodegradable plastic pods that create agile wifi spaces around urban spaces as a response to Havana’s inability to cope with the demand.

Currently in Cuba, hotspot users have to sit in close proximity to wifi hubs, often on curbs or makeshift furniture. PARAWIFI offers a private and secure space for its users that is properly lit and ventilated. Cultured caught up with the designers via email to talk about their installation, their idea of utopia and the digital revolution.

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How have you interpreted the theme of Utopia by Design for the Cuban pavilion? We interpret it as a possible hopeful solution we wish for our society from an existing problem attempting to encourage the governments to create spaces that can pave the way towards a sure socialization of the new digital technologies.

How would you describe utopia? We see utopia as a hope to build a better world with our own hands.

How has the digital revolution affected how we perceive our surrounding environment and how does your design address that? The digital revolution constitutes one of the greatest milestones, along the same lines as navigation, the wheel, printing, industrial revolution and thermal energy. The digital revolution occurs in shorter time intervals than previous revolutions or civilizations leaps and its impact is exponentially bigger, not only because it transforms the idea and the disposition of the digital technology as something close and possible, but also because it has transformed the idea through which we humans see and have of interaction and communication. It has provided a great deal of knowledge to a space not greater than a paper sheet, but populated by millions of pixels of light. PARAWIFI aims to positively influence the shaping of social practices of the internet consumption in our country; from being inside them as an enhancer and facilitator, whilst at the same time on the way to contributing to an improvement of the conditions of the depressed urban spaces.

How did Verner Panton’s Living Towers influence your design? Although the Towers of Life of Verner Panton have not influenced our design in a conscious way, we are great admirers of their topical work. We are proud of having coincided with its spirit of joining and socializing the people within this engagement.

The world around us is rapidly changing. What role do you think design plays in starting a dialogue around key issues in society, particularly around new technology, human experiences and the environment? Design is a tool, which together with the right political attitude can help speed up advances in areas of great importance for humanity. There could be as much design in a combat pilot pulpit as in a portable surgery room. The issue does not lie with the transformation potential that the design as a practice may yield. It lies in the vision it creates on the social mediators. You can say that the word design is equivalent to the word civilization; it is illustrative of how ambivalent its instrumentalization can be. The world today needs, more than anything, great political will because of the challenges presented to a planet about to extinguish its natural resources and having an exponential growth of its population are enormous. Design, in the right minds, can do much for the human race.