Design course at the University of the Underground to form “a network of creative soldiers”

A new master’s program called University of the Underground promises free design education to students who wish to “positively challenge institutions and power structures.”


Organized by designer Nelly Ben Hayoun, the course is offered by the Sandberg Instituut of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.

Metro University will offer a unique program that will teach students to design experiences, events and situations that support social change.

To give an example of the kind of change the program hopes to bring about, all of its seats will be fully funded through a mix of 80 percent philanthropic giving and 20 percent government grants.

“The University of the Underground responds to the current trend of increasing fees for postgraduate programs by offering a business model in which all students receive scholarships to cover their tuition fees,” Ben Hayoun said. in Dezeen.

“It aims to serve as a model of what can be achieved through coordination, shared passion and belief in the next generation – the goal being to create many more of these educational structures around the world on this basis, 80% , 20%. “

Confirmed members of the University of the Underground Board of Trustees include Director of the Sandberg Institute Jurgen Bey, Curator Beatrice Galilee, Writer Dave Eggers, Fiona Raby of Parsons School of Design as well as Executives from ‘Airbnb and WeTransfer.

Ben Hayoun – an experienced designer, filmmaker and activist – will serve as the course director, while Pentagram partner Paula Scher, sci-fi author Bruce Sterling and professor of experimental architecture Rachel Armstrong are among those. confirmed as guest tutors.

While the course may seem like a direct response to today’s busy political climate, Ben Hayoun says the idea has been in development for some time.

“As a designer, I have always felt that objects and our discipline did not respond well to the emergencies of our world,” she said. “In the meantime, I think institutions like universities should be the place where politics is actively contested and discussed.”

“The University of the Underground is poised to create and connect a network of creative soldiers who can positively challenge institutions and power structures.”

For Ben Hayoun, a turning point was being exposed to critical design at the Royal College of Art while studying design interactions.

She also explored the intersection of design and politics throughout her practice, in projects such as the feature film Disaster Playground, which examined actual emergency procedures for events such as an asteroid impact. , and The International Space Orchestra – a scientific space orchestra reenacting a Greek tragedy.

“This leads me to believe that yes, it was possible to design within institutions and still embrace experimentation, chaos and power shifts early in the creative process and as a mode of public engagement,” she declared.

The University of the Underground will combine critical design with experiential, theatrical, cinematographic, political and musical practices.

The program will be based in Amsterdam, in what is described as a “hidden network of urban spaces”. Ben Hayoun is currently working on securing an abandoned chocolate factory, among other sites.

Students will also spend three months in London working in the Village Underground.

The Metro University is open for applications from today until April 1. The first class of 15 students will start the program in September, which is fully funded by scholarships.

Two years later they will obtain a Master of Arts, officially approved and funded by the Dutch government.


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