Designing with communities of place: the experience of a DESIS Lab during COVID-19 and beyond




Social distancing, lockdown, and the consequent intensification of online interactions brought by Covid-19 are raising new questions for design theory and practices. The lack of physical or face-to-face interactions blocked the design activities developed in public spaces. The article aims to share a DESIS Lab experience to overcome these limitations and continue in a contactless way. Firstly, a literature review introduces the Lab's theoretical and methodological approaches; then, a process started previously to the pandemic outbreak is presented, called My Neighborhood. It happens in a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, called Grajaú, with face-to-face activities developed in a public square. Secondly, a new initiative prototyped after the pandemic outbreak is described. Grajaú Collab is an online mapping that identifies micro-businesses and volunteers in the neighborhood. The Lab's theoretical and methodological approaches provided the orientation and adaptability to stay with the local community under the pandemic. My Neighborhood has moved online and generates Grajaú Collab; however, both remain closely referred to the neighborhood's physical space. Online and offline modalities become two complementary sides of the same open-ended learning process and, in the future, the lab team can restart offline and face-to-face participation in the neighborhood as a continuum of the same infrastructuring process.

Author Biography

Carla Cipolla, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro / UFRJ - Coppe

Associate professor






Reflections on the design processes