Hello.

Co-founder and creative director of Amsterdam-based design company Droog, Renny Ramakers initiates projects, curates exhibitions, and lectures worldwide. Educated as an art historian at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, Ramakers has since been more interested in making history by stretching the borders of design thinking. Her aim is to deliver cutting edge content and unexpected perspectives in an interdisciplinary and a down-to-earth way.

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Social City at UABB 2015 in Shenzhen

The Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (UABB) in Shenzhen invited me to be the co-curator of Re-Living the City - the 6th edition. Here I am presenting Social City, which consists of an online platform and large-scale installation filling approximately 1000m2 of the former Dacheng Flour Factory in Shekou, Shenzhen - a declining factory complex built in 1980s. Social City advocates a new way of city-making based on the diversity of dreams and desires of city dwellers. Since urban life is so diverse and changing, it beckons a new way of city creation that is shaped by its citizens - one that embraces their desires and diversity.

Social City is dedicated to exploring how the diversity of citizens’ dreams and desires can shape the city of the 21st century. This is in response to a number of frictions: the gap between the city that people want to live in and the city that people end up living in. There is a gap between the way professionals envision the city and how people in fact organize their lives. This means that citizens are generally reduced to an abstraction in an urban planning that leaves little room for diversity of dreams and desires of citizens.

Our exhibition in Shenzhen presents various ways of how to learn about the dreams and desires of citizens. In two interactive installations, called ‘Babel’ by architect and computer programmer Mark van der Net (OSCity), we are directly tapping the social media (Weibo and Twitter) in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. We do so, because digital technology and social networks have drastically changed city life. With standard statistical methods it is hard to conduct research on the increased fragmented society. But through tapping the social media we can better explore how people are simultaneously connected with each other through the virtual and the real, what they talk about and where they are while using social media.

In Social City we do not perceive citizens as abstractions, for us the diversity of their dreams and desires are pivotal. Therefore artists Jan Rothuizen has taken the digital data mapping as starting point. From this data he selected and contacted people to meet in real life. Based on his encounters with a retired investor, a travel office employee, an Uber taxi driver, and a factory worker, he made drawings of their individual behaviours and desires.

We also capture the dreams and desires of citizens all over the world via the quiz on www.socialcities.org. People are invited to answer questions about their ideal city life. This generates a unique avatar that will have its virtual home in Social City, which is built according to the given answers in the quiz. We invite experts in the field of architecture, urban planning, sociology and economy to reflect on the content generated by citizens and to start a dialogue with them. We also make visualisations of the results.

The data from the platform will have to result in design solutions: the building stones for the future city. The challenge is to combine all different desires in one city model. Architect office TD did the first exercise, which is based on one of the questions in the quiz: “how would your house in Social City look like?” So far it turns out that most people want to live in a tree hut, a building block or a detached house. But there are also quite a few people who would like to live in a house boat or a mobile home and there are even people who do not want a house at all. TD’s ‘Treehousewaterboatappartmenthammocktower’ is a free interpretation of this diversity of desires, illustrated in a condensed example for one building block. It is no science fiction, but actually tested on technical feasibility.

Social City will be on display till March 1, 2016 at UABB, No.3 Gangwan Road, Shekou, Shenzhen (深圳市南山区港湾大道3号).

See more photos here.

Social City is a first full-scale exercise of the Design+Desires program, which I have initiated in 2014. Design+Desires examines how to link the dreams, desires and needs of citizens to their virtual and real daily experiences. With Design+Desires I created a research-and-do-program that combines the output of social media, active participatory citizen research, technology, and innovative design solutions.

Follow Social City on Twitter, Facebook, or sign up for our mailing list to be amongst the first to get the news: info@socialcities.org


Social City platform officially launched!

I am very delighted to invite people all over the world to express their desires via a virtual platform and quiz at Socialcities.org.

People can create an avatar and see the city grow. Socialcities.org is also a think tank. Quizzes on a variety of topics generate visual data maps, research, reflection and discussion. The project is part of a broader research-and-do-program which I have developed. The program examines the world’s city life starting from small scale to the larger whole by acknowledging the passions and needs of people. Social City is the first exercise.

The average person intimately knows 50 people. These people probably met through a predestined network – a network of people limited by nationality, income, school and work. Next to this, the world is changing fast and it’s splintering. Mohammed in Africa probably has more in common with David in the UK than he does with Ibrahim in his same-city friendship circle. Bringing Mo and David together not only nurtures shared interests, but also individual diversity due to their birthplace heritage.

Everything has changed around us. We embrace internet, technology, social media, globalization. Yet, the way cities are designed is surprisingly similar to 50 years ago. Cities do not keep up with this fast-paced status quo and its fragmenting diversity of lifestyles.

Imagine cities built like matchmaking sites, connecting like-minded people with shared dreams and desires. Imagine our social circles not being designed by top-down decision making, but by our mutual passions. Imagine desires designing our cities.

The online platform Socialcities.org addresses all of this by using play and techno culture to capture the dreams and desires of ordinary citizens. This makes for a city that understands changing global culture, a city without borders, or rules or top-down planning. Socialcities.org is an exercise in individuality and explores how countless identities can make up a diverse whole. It is a think tank based on the desires and dreams of citizens. The world has changed, now it’s time for the city.

Socialcities.org is created by me Renny Ramakers and Mark van der Net (OSCity) in collaboration with Thonik (design). It is part of the broader Social City project at Shenzhen Urbanism/Architecture Bi-City Biennale (UABB, 1/12/2015 – 1/3/2016), of which I am the curator.


Social City introduced at Talkshow Stadsleven in Amsterdam

During the talkshow Stadsleven (Oct. 26, 2015) with the theme ‘Make no small plans’ I was interviewed by Tracy Metz about the Social City project, which is part of the broader Design+desires program. The interview can be seen here.


Social City (beta version) at Beijing Design Week 2015

At the Next City Living Lab during the Beijing Design Week (23/9 – 31/10, 2015) the beta version of the Social City online platform will be launched.

Cities are becoming larger and larger, smarter and smarter. Technology is supposed to solve all city problems. Governments, companies and urban planners are eager to do so. But what about citizens? What do they think? Can they have a say? In Social City they have!

The online platform will be worldwide for both citizens, as well as for professionals in architecture, urban planning, and other disciplines. Citizens are invited to share their dreams, desires, and needs via a quiz. The results of the kick off quiz will shape the virtual city. The more people participate, the more Social City will grow. The next quizzes will focus on such topics as local economy, public space, mobility, governance, and community building. The platform is a unique online combination of shared dreams and desires of citizens, hard data and discourse by professionals. The beta version of the platform will be launched at the Beijing Design Week in September 2015. The final version will be presented in the installation at Shenzhen Urbanism/Architecture Bi-City Biennale (UABB) 2015 in Shenzhen.

In Social City citizens take the lead, and experts in architecture and city planning are invited to reflect on the shared desired elements which constitute Social City. It challenges top down city planning, bottom-up utopias, smart city naivety, superficial urban solutions, traditional lifestyle categorizing, and big data misuse.

Social City platform is curated by Renny Ramakers in collaboration with Mark van der Net (OSCity). Technical implementation: OSCity. Graphics: Thonik.

Exhibition venue in Beijing: The Nurturing House, Sanjing Hutong No. 21, Dashilar, Xicheng District, Beijing, 100051


Droog Foundation presents its latest program: Design+Desires

Design+Desires examines how to link the dreams, desires and needs of citizens to their virtual and real daily experiences. The objective is to find solutions and opportunities that can be implemented in the existing daily environment. The ultimate goal is to upscale these towards a larger infrastructure and to develop a conceptual model for a partly self-organizing city.

The program consist of design projects, educational projects, academic research, citizen surveys, exhibitions, expert meetings, debates and lectures. The website of Design+Desires keeps track of all these data and other input by citizens and experts, it archives and visualizes this.


Social City (part of the Design+Desires program) at UABB 2015

Social City, a program to be curated by me, will be showcased at UABB 2015 (Bi-City Biennale of UrbanismArchitecture) in Shenzhen (China, 1 December 2015 - 1 March 2016).

The theme of UABB 2015 is “Re-living the City”. UABB will argue that we need to open up, reuse, and rethink the cities, buildings, and spaces we already have. It will survey the best examples of tactical urbanism, showing how we can connect people to each other and their places by design. It will use the Pearl River Delta as an example of such ground-up urbanism.

Cities are getting bigger and bigger, smarter and smarter. Technology is supposed to solve all city problems. Governments, companies and urban planners are eager to do so. But what about CITIZENS? What do THEY think? Can they have a SAY?

Social City consists of an installation in the UABB exhibition and an online platform. The installation will give insight in the city life of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Its diversity will be caught in information which is derived from the repository of various personal activities, intentions and affections, which users have been putting on the internet. These soft data will be extracted and visualized in digital maps with the OSCity web-tool developed by Mark van der Net. Complementary to the digital data are the drawings which artist Jan Rothuizen is making of real life in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

The digital and real mapping will be linked to in-depth conversations with individual citizens about their dreams, desires and needs by students of Design Academy Eindhoven and PolyU Hong Kong. All this information together will be the start from which innovative solutions for local problems will be designed, and new opportunities in the two cities will be explored. Visitors of the exhibition can directly react to the proposals.

The online platform will be worldwide for both citizens, as well as for professionals in architecture, urban planning, and other disciplines. Citizens are invited to share their dreams, desires, and needs via a quiz. The results of the kick off quiz will shape the virtual city. The more people participate, the more Social City will grow. The next quizzes will focus on such topics as local economy, public space, mobility, governance, and community building. The platform is a unique online combination of shared dreams and desires of citizens, hard data and discourse by professionals. The beta version of the platform will be launched at the Beijing Design Week in September 2015. The final version will be presented in the installation at UABB.

In Social City citizens take the lead, and experts in architecture and city planning are invited to reflect on the shared desired elements which constitute Social City. It challenges top down city planning, bottom-up utopias, smart city naivety, superficial urban solutions, traditional lifestyle categorizing, and big data misuse.

Social City is curated by Renny Ramakers (Droog Foundation/Design+Desires) in collaboration with Mark van der Net (OSCity), Jan Rothuizen, Design Academy Eindhoven and PolyU.


Leading an option studio at Cornell University - Design & Desires, Design & Living, Design & The City

Otto Neurath, ISO image language, c. 1930

This year, from August 27 till December 12, I will lead an option studio at Cornell Architecture Art Planning Department of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) together with Aleksandr Mergold (Cornell Arch), Agata Jaworska (Royal College of Art, Design Academy Eindhoven), and Mark van der Net (OSCity). This option studio is part of Droog’s multi-annual program called Design & Desires, Design & Living, Design & The City.

The aim of the studio is to re-think a conceptual model for an urban master plan. We seek to explore the possibility in which the city is not approached top-down, where city dwellers are an abstract “population” and “tax base’ (the Robert Moses model), or as a nodal organism (the Lynch model), or a new urbanism total experience (the Celebration FL model), nor as a pure urban form (the Nolli model). Nor do we intend to be involved in the bottom-up through initiatives of residents, such as life-hacking (the Hipster model) in which case there often is no role for design and architecture. Instead, from the diverse set of needs, scales, aspirations and desires of city dwellers, resulting in a range of spheres, places, services, images and connections, a new radical Design Plan for a (small) city will emerge.

The focus of the DESIGN PLAN will be Trumansburg, a village in Tompkins County, New York, United States. The program aims to anticipate the emerging needs, aspirations and desires of city dwellers in this rust-belt Upstate NY town that in the last 30 years have been dissolving as a traditional urban entities.

The village was incorporated in 1872, in the former Central New York Military Tract. How do the few remaining citizens see their [failing] village? How will they work, how will they spend their free time? How does all shape this village? Is there an alternative way? The PLAN will research economics, demographics, culture, stories, and rumors - as many constraints and inputs as we can find. It is an urban studio. It is an architecture studio. It is a visual identity and data visualization design studio. It is a product design studio. It is a studio on design and desires, design and living, design and the city.

The diversity of needs and desires of citizens is fundamental to the design plan. To this end, we will make a qualitative analysis of individuals from all walks of life (high- and low-educated, hipsters and conservatives, the youth and the elderly).

The ambition is to use the research results in order to create, with a keen eye on technological developments, all kinds of spheres, products, places and services around the needs, aspirations and desires of citizens. This creates a variety of challenges for designers, where there is no distinction between the material reality and the perceived reality, between the real and the virtual, between objects and interactions.

The anticipated outcome of these projects is a variety of products, places, environments and services, which will become building blocks of a larger whole. The “small to large” approach will ultimately be scaled up to create a conceptual model for a micro-city, a smaller, self-organizing unit in which sustainability seems to be more readily achievable than in a big city. This will establish a conceptual model for a micro-city arising from an unbiased assessment of latent needs of individual citizens, their desires and their dreams, which will be translated into products, environments, places and services. The result could be seen as complementary to urban planning based on the more general knowledge about demographic, sociological and economic shifts, along with abstract trend descriptions from consumer research.

Cornell students can refer to the following literature:

Harman, Graham. 2010. Towards Speculative Realism: Essays and Lectures. Winchester, UK: Zero Books.
Bryant, Levi, Graham Harman, and Nick Srnicek. 2011. The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism. Melbourne: Re.Press.
Rossi, Aldo. 1979. Architecture of the City, Oppositions.
Caro, Robert. 1974. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.
Munari, Bruno. Living (game)
Piloton, Emily. 2009. Design Revolution, 100 Products that Empower People. Metropolis Books.
Lynch, Kevin. 1960. The Image of the City. Cambridge MA
Papanek, Victor. 1984. Design for the Real World. Human Ecology and Social Change. Academy Chicago Publishers.
Fletcher, Alan. 2006. Picturing & Poeting. Phaidon.
Vossoughian, Nader. 2008. Otto Neurath: The Language of Global Polis. NAi Publishers.


SZHKSMZ Special Material Zone

At the 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (UABB) in Shenzhen, Droog and TD present SZHKSMZ – an imagined Shenzhen Hong Kong Special Material Zone designated to stimulate alternatives to material depletion. A sequel to Material Matters as presented in Milan and Eindhoven in 2012, SZHKSMZ aims to stimulate progressive business models urged by material scarcity and to broaden the discussion on material culture and policy. On December 7th Droog director Renny Ramakers opened the Zone, which will remain on show until 28 February 2014.

It is predicted that the global middle class will double from two to four billion by 2025. While we are optimistic about the greater access to a “good life”, it is impossible that our world’s material resources will keep up with the growing demand – unless of course we change our modes of material production and consumption.

The Shenzhen Hong Kong Special Material Zone aims to encourage innovation surrounding all dimensions of material culture – from extraction to processing, design, production and consumption – in order to meet our growing demands. The setting is a series of presentations and demonstrations by imaginary companies, each of which deals in an alternative manner with material of the basis of scarcity and creativity.

The 5th Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-city Biennial Urbanism / Architecture opens its doors on 6 December 2013 and runs until 28 February 2014. Urban Border, the biennial’s theme, refers not only to the border with Hong Kong, but also to the borders of the discipline of architecture and complex social conditions within the city.

SZHKSMZ was developed as part of Droog Lab, which raises topics and initiates projects in collaboration with designers, clients and partners worldwide with the aim of stimulating innovation and debate in design and society.

more info.


Droog in Hong Kong

Droog is very excited to announce the opening of our Hong Kong branch. Our second location is a small building in the heart of Soho, Hong Kong. The entire building is dedicated to Droog, from ground floor to the rooftop terrace. Next to a store, Droog Hong Kong offers a gallery, dining room, outdoor kitchen, rooftop terrace and The one and only bedroom number #2.

Droog curated several limited edition accessories for its Hong Kong customers. We will introduce one product every two weeks, and each item is limited to 100 pieces. The items include a bomb-shaped candle that reveals three star brooches when it melts. All the items are based on the process of upcycling. Droog Hong Kong will be serving the Hong Kong, Macau and Chinese mainland areas.

We hope to see you soon at Droog Hong Kong.

Droog Store Hong Kong
47 Square Street
Tai Ping Shan Street

more info.


Keep me updated

The public living room of Hotel Droog, ROOMSERVICE is more than a daytime café and tearoom. During evenings it is also a place full of happenings. Daring speakers stand up to share their dilemma with the public. Writers read and discuss their recently published books. Films are screened and discussed. There is a lot of debate around all kinds of topics, such as design, architecture, art, food, science and politics. Members of the public, design enthusiasts and special guests can join for the talks, the laughs and the special dinner events.

Sign up for the newsletter to hear about upcoming events. info@hoteldroog.com


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Watch an interview by iFly Magazine.


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Home within a home

do ho suh constructs a home within a home at MMCA

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Read Renny’s blog

UP and Qatar
Why Material Matters
“Sorry, but we don’t trust you architects”
Join us: WIJkonomie Tarwewijk
Copying is good for design
What is design today?
Fantastical Investments
preview: Fiction is Survival
Open House: what a concept
The suburbs: no big investments necessary
Open design: an interesting but tricky concept
Why are you doing this?
Sustainism?
Do we need a Dutch label?
Ornamentation is like gardening
Interview by iFly magazine


150 Women Who Shake the World

Amongst great influential women such as Angela Merkel and Oprah Winfrey, Renny Ramakers has been named one of the “150 Women Who Shake the World” by Newsweek. As stated by Newsweek:

“Art historian turned curator turned environmental trendsetter, Renny Ramakers has put a different kind of green conscience into design with UP, the Dutch innovator’s latest venture. Initiated by Droog, a firm she cofounded that took the design world by storm, UP is a collaborative effort among companies to cut down on waste by using surplus materials to create new goods. The movement’s many partners have created a rapidly growing line of chic “leftover” products from dead-stock items repurposed in inventive ways.”

Explore the list
More information about UP


Domus interviews Renny

About copying China and the Rijksmuseum historical collection. Watch the video here.