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Open Design School

Open Design School is a laboratory of interdisciplinary experimentation and innovation, born as a pillar project of Matera 2019, European Capital of Culture. It was set up to design and implement the infrastructures necessary for the realisation of the cultural program in Matera and Basilicata.

Open Design School Workshop. Photo courtesy of Open Design School/Matera 2019

The school is based in Casino Padula, in the district of Agna Le Piane -Matera, where the team is working on context analysis of the 2019 locations and on design, prototyping, and execution of a stage system for the venues of Matera 2019.

An opportunity for developing new networks and new economies

The Open Design School was born as part of the cultural program of Matera European Capital of Culture 2019. It was conceived as a strategy for maximising the long-term benefits of the ECoC programs to the citizens of Matera, in the hope that the process of preparation for this major international event could in itself become an opportunity for developing new networks and new economies within the city, as well as between Matera and other cities. 


The Open Design School launched its activities in 2016, with the primary goal of setting up a workshop to self-produce everything needed for the cultural program of Matera 2019. 

It delivered more than 120 studies and projects (urban installations, exhibitions, event set-up, maps, etc.) and organized over 60 learning experiences (seminars and community workshops). [1]

In 2019, Matera in Southern Italy was designated as the European Cultural Capital for one year. The organizers chose “Open Culture” as the year long theme. As part of the cultural program of Matera 2019, Open Design School is conceived as a network, a think tank and a public institution of learning for the study of design in a spirit of creative and generous synergy between art, science and technology. [2]

Matera 2019 Foundation was formed on 3 September 2014, and it will last until 31 December 2022. The duration of the Foundation is linked to the timeframe in which the cultural strategy outlined in the candidacy dossier (2015 – 2020) is implemented and to the need to manage, monitor and evaluate the outcomes and impacts of the strategy.

Organisation and people

Architect, curator and writer Joseph Grima initiated the Open Design School and was the artistic director for Matera European Capital of Culture 2019. 

“To date, 116 Italian and European artists and professionals from Lucania have been involved in the activities of the Open Design School. Together they have mapped 431 places, produced 9 large exhibitions, 11 urban installations, 10 cultural events and promoted 87 talks, events and workshops, thus encouraging the meeting and enjoyment of creative content by the public.” The participants are one third foreign nationals, one third Italians and one third Matera citizens. Open Design School is a research, design and production laboratory.”[3]

This description is based on excerpts from websites as referred to in Notes and Resources and input from Joseph Grima.





Open Design School, Matera website:

Matera, European Capital of Culture website:

Elisa Giuliano, member of Open Design School, website:

Text by Rita Orlando, Open Design School manager:

Michelle Song
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