On 20 June 2023, the World Design Organization™ (WDO), based in Montreal, Canada, announced the short list with the two finalists selected by the WDO’s international jury, representing all continents, from the applications for the title World Design Capital 2026. Along with Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Frankfurt RhineMain prevailed over the other applicants with the claim Design for Democrcacy. Atmospheres for a better life and thus reached a decisive milestone in obtaining the globally respected title. Representatives of the WDO will visit Frankfurt RhineMain in July 2023 before the final decision will be announced at the official WDO Annual General Meeting in Tokyo, Japan, in October 2023.
The title World Design Capital® is awarded every two years by the WDO and is an internationally recognized program initiated by the design industry in recognition of cities and regions for their effective use of design to promote cultural, economic, social and environmental development. In an extensive year-long program of events, the designated city or region presents itself as a center for design, creativity and innovation. It becomes part of an international network and experiences a strong increase in tourists. In the past, the international award went to cities such as Helsinki, Cape Town, Lille Métropole, Seoul and San Diego-Tijuana (2024). These cities have developed into prominent design centers that still benefit from their appointment as World Design Capital.
Frankfurt RhineMain applied with the claim Design for Democracy. Atmospheres for a better life. For more than two years, the team of the project company under the direction of Prof. Matthias Wagner K has been working intensively on the application on behalf of the City of Frankfurt am Main and the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain. The application catalog submitted at the end of March 2023 included a detailed presentation of the vision behind the claim, an image video about Design for Democracy in Frankfurt and the RhineMain region, and answers to an extensive catalog of questions. As the digital Frankfurt am Main, 20 June 2023 2/3 submission was a requirement of the World Design Organization™, the submission documents of more than 700 pages were embedded in a specially designed digital platform.
Summary of the vision behind the claim Design for Democracy. Atmospheres for a better life:
Frankfurt RhineMain – the city of Frankfurt am Main in association with cities and municipalities in the Rhine–Main region – is applying for the title of
World Design Capital 2026 with the claim Design for Democracy. Atmospheres for a better life. The application builds on comprehensive social transformations through design and applied sciences that have characterised the living, economic and cultural aspects of Frankfurt RhineMain for more than 550 years. It is aware of the crises of the present time and defines them as good problems that require good design solutions.
The application focuses on visions, utopias and corresponding narratives as the driving force and compass of creative activity, on a design that has the power of imagination and the ability to make the imagined a reality. In addition to outstanding and interdisciplinary pilot projects, experimental and model projects are to be made possible, which are to be implemented, tested and made visible on a small or large scale. Specifically in all relevant areas of coexistence, such as work, building, education, energy, health, industry, consumption, culture, mobility, public space, sport and living.
Design for Democracy means responsible design to facilitate, expand, sustain and intensify life – designing good, participatory solutions to good problems that arise from changes in the environment, technology, economy and society. At the same time, Design for Democracy sees itself as a movement of very different players who believe in the potential of shaping a future worth living, who are willing to convincingly develop new possibilities for the shaping of processes, structures and atmospheres that enable people to come together and live together in dialogue in the here and now.
On the one hand, Atmospheres for a better life alludes quite specifically to the atmosphere of our planet as the basis of all life. And on the other hand, atmosphere means something interpersonal, aesthetic, something that has to do with moods, in the best case with a resonance experience. Do public spaces invite people to participate, to linger and to exchange? Do people take care of them or do they leave their rubbish lying around because the spaces do not touch them? Yet it is public space that guarantees the physical and psychological conditions for public and private action, for encounter and the experience of difference. Because this is where inclusion of people takes place – with all its diversity, variety and heterogeneity. Shaping it in such a way that it creates space for interactions and processes of opinion–forming and consensus– building is the challenge of the coming years.
Design for Democracy. Atmospheres for a better life suggests that the promise of a better life has not yet been achieved. The promise that is attached to democracy, which as a form of government has incorporated its own improvability into its foundation. The aforementioned better life can only be one that allows the same for future generations. The responsibility that comes with this is one that is based on personal will, because the problems of our time can be sensed in one’s own being and on the basis of one’s own biography. It is a responsibility in the wider sense, i.e. in relation to another person, a group or society. And because it is known to make people happier, to take action and create beautiful, good things. Design for Democracy. Atmospheres for a better life is an invitation to actively participate in the design of living spaces and liberal democracy – also as a hope for all those people who have been deprived of it, are currently being deprived of it, or who strive for it.