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Conceptual Devices is an interdisciplinary design practice founded by Antonio Scarponi with the mission to develop design strategies with social (and economic) impact.

CONCEPTUAL DEVICES agenda and interests are triggered by the demographic challenges raised by a world shared by more than 7 billion humans interconnected. Food security, waste reduction, innovative dwelling systems, optimization of renewable resources, aging and how all these factors can shape our relation with the built environment are the key factors that frame our design approach and research.

The office is focused on the design and development of what we define “urban devices“: objects of various scale and form conceived to condensate a strategic spatial agenda, possibly to activate urban environments and resilient communities. Urban devices are spatial interventions that can be strategically combined or replicated to maximize impact and investments on social, political and media realms.

In the past years, Conceptual Devices has been focusing extensively on urban agriculture as a tool for urban regeneration. Several urban devices at various scales have been developed, including Farm-X, a removable vertical farm concept able to grow up to 5 tons of vegetables a day in 1000 sqm (the proof of concept is under construction in Richmond, California). Farm-X is originally conceived for a disadvantaged area of Oakland, as a tool to grow food in the city industrially, generating employment and integrate production waste to produce energy. Farm-X was designed under the motto of “from farm to table and return”.
A strategic and architectural intervention for industrial rooftop reactivation can be seen on the rooftop aquaponic farm in Basel, Switzerland, designed for UrbanFarmes, fully operating.

With the idea of activating unused part of the city, Hedron is a geodesic rooftop greenhouse structure capable of growing up to 10 kg of fresh food in 25 sqm. Hedron production could feed up to four families of four, year round. Hedron is currently under development.

The Harvesting Station, designed for Veg and the City, is also a community shared vertical garden able to grow 200 plants in 4sqm and activate unused plots of the city. The Harvesting Station can be seen in the Google Headquarter in Zurich.

A smaller but interesting urban farming devices is Malthus, a meal a day. An aquaponic set up that maximize fish and food production in a domestic environment, designed as an installation piece for and art exhibition in Sweden.

Conceptual Devices also confronted with innovative hospitality facilities, including Trampolines Suite Hotel in Riccione, Italy, featuring the largest  Corian® facade in Europe and Hotello, a portable office or hotel room designed to activate empty or dismissed industrial space and turn them productive, as working space or as temporary accommodation facility, designed for das konzept with Roberto de Luca.
Currently, Conceptual Devices is engaged in an internal research project to design a height-standards-lowcost, removable and off-grid housing concept.

Conceptual Devices conceives design as a cultural value. This approach implies a way of looking at design as a form of knowledge (or poetry) which outcome goes way beyond traditional products. We define this type of intervention as “anti-products“: objects or devices that consist of simple narratives that can enable people, engage and empower communities. Anti-products are cultural interventions designed to be disseminated and rewarded as media impact. The office is working on this concept as an ongoing research beyond products.

Readykea, for example, is an instruction manual to build a traveling exhibition which elements (bookshelves, tables, etc.) are made with plastic boxes gathered at Ikea and assembled with zip ties. Claiming the customer satisfaction policy of Ikea, the original products can be brought back and request a reimburse, reducing the exhibition costs to zero. Readykea was originally conceived for a Dada exhibition titled “Revolution to Smash Global Capitalism” at Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, in 2011.

With few boxes remained from the first Readikea experiment, ELIOOO, How to go to Ikea and grow food in your apartment, was developed. ELIOOO is a manual instruction for growing food with hydroponics. Instead of producing a new product in a low-cost labor force country, cast it, store it and then distribute it, the book provide instructions to turn Ikea stores across the world as a distributor of supply of a product that does not exist (unless you make it). ELIOOO aims to turn people into the “manufacturers” of an idea and empower them to grow food at home. The book has been translated into several languages, it was financed with a crowdfunding and received support from Ikea Switzerland.

An expensive hoodie produced by Nike was hard to communicate. In collaboration with the Italian edition of GQ magazine Just Undo It was developed assuming that a need a new product is not what it is needed, but rather it is necessary to know how to transform what we already have. Playing with the famous Nike payoff, Just Undo It is a collection of instructions about how to transform, reversibly, a Nike hoody into five different everyday objects. See the how-to videos here.

Why a magazine in 2016 (that features innovation) should be still printed on paper? Wired Unplugged, developed in collaboration with Wired Magazine (The UK and IT editions), is an “how to” that shows how the magazine can be destroyed to create everyday objects. The idea is to extend the impact of the advertising into areas otherwise not reached by the magazine itself and by doing so adding more value to the advertising space itself.

Antonio Scarponi is an Architect and Designer. He studied architecture at the Cooper Union in New York and Venice at IUAV, from which he holds a Ph.D. in Urban Design. He taught and lectured in different design and architecture Schools in Europe, Asia, and the US. He is currently teaching at ZhDk, Zurich. His work and projects with Conceptual Devices, have been widely published in specialized magazines, worldwide. He received many prizes and awards, including the prestigious Humanitarian Design Prize Curry Stone (2008). Antonio Scarponi is also the author of ELIOOO and co-founder of TANTOOO, the fairy tale beanbag.


Related posts:

  1. Generic Architecture as Strategic Design for Rooftop Urban Agriculture: Aquaponic Farm in Basel for Urban Farmers.
  2. FARM-X. The First Modular Vertical Farm Concept (Almost) Unveiled.
  3. Fish from the Sky with Vegetables. Globe / Hedron a Rooftop Farm.
  4. Harvesting Station, a Reclaiming Device for the Interstitial Spaces of the City.
  5. URBAN NARRATIVE. A round table discussion: Meira Ahmemulic, Antonio Scarponi, Elin Wikström @ Hit, Göteborg, 2-4 p.m.
  6. UrbanFarmers Concept Farm Model Presented at TEDx Zurich.
  7. ELIOOO, the Japanese Edition is Out.
  8. ELIOOO. Grow Your Food. Or How to Go to IKEA® and Build a Device to Grow Salad in Your Apartment.
  9. READYKEA X-Mass Shop at Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich.
  10. Hannibal is Coming Back. Salon Suisse: The Next 100 Years – Scenarios for an Alpine City State. 14th International Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.



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