Street interventions for change

Designer, artist and educator //
Bogotá //
5th July 2017 // 

Leonardo is an Industrial Designer interested – amongst many things – in citizen creative participation, technology and the city. He talks about the intersection between people, place and technology and is studying a PHD called Street Interventions for Change. He is also a teacher at Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano.

“I started out myself as a graffiti artist, and when I was in the city creating work I would notice how the act of creating in the street could give young guys this feeling of power and control of their environment… like they got hooked on the idea of creating”

Leonardo teaches participatory design ideas to his students, from a local Colombian context. He too referenced the challenge that many tools and methods shared online are often developed from a Northern perspective, and don’t hold the same relevance or value in this part of the world. He talked about how people in this region use creativity, play and resourcefulness: “Here we maximise our collective resources within constraints and limitations”. This reality holds an opportunity for methods and tools used in design projects that seek citizen involvement. He wants to turn the participation pyramid inside down, giving more people to opportunity to be involved and engaged in the design process within this city.

“Particpation alone is not enough, we all need to be actively involved in the design of this society”.

Leonardo talked about the how in Colombian society a social safety net does not exist “we need to build our own networks of support here, we can’t be dependant on the government… equally, it is pretentious to think I can tell people how to life their daily lives”. Leonardo believes in developing models of particpation that give people power and autonomy within their communities. And encourage an erosion of the barriers between people based on social or economic status.

Colombia has a long history of conflict, far left and far right dictatorships and foreign interference. These cultural memories affect the methodology of participatory design. “The notion of conflict permeates all levels of our society“. Leonardo talked about how discrimination is ingrained in many parts of the Colombian culture, and it is easy to grow up with a discriminatory mindset, believing that those with less than you are deserving of their situation.

“It has taken me many years to develop a world view that is not discriminatory”

He believes being a designer and using design in building civic life is a powerful tool in tackling some of Colombia’s most complex issues.

“Design is a meeting space, a public place, a way of articulating differences, facing things, and seeing new alternatives”

He referenced the work of the Graffiti Research Lab in New York, who use open source technology for civic engagement. And talked about the methods of Participatory Design and Adversarial Design.

Image from


But remains critical about the use of technological innovation, and North-centric tools for Bogotá and Colombia right now. In a time when there are such gaps between the people who have and those who have not. He wants to find some new ways.

“I want to help develop methods that give communities in Colombia the tools to spot opportunities and take action”

Meeting for a Columbian coffee

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