HEAD – Genève, 13.05.2024 - 14.05.2024
International Conference

The Future of Humanitarian Design

May 13-14th, 2024
HEAD Campus, Building H, H4.01 / Design Room, Bâtiment H, Avenue de Châtelaine 7, CH-1203 Genève

Humanitarian design is gaining influence, with various disciplines — including engineering, computer science, architecture, law, political science, and others — increasingly aiming to design interventions relevant to humanitarianism in its broadest sense. However, the status of such interventions remains unclear. For some, humanitarian design heightens a longstanding critique of the apolitical nature of interventionist actions. For others, even more critically, it reinforces a postcolonial logic of domination perpetuated through humanitarianism. Yet, simultaneously, humanitarian design reflects a broader acceleration of the entanglement of politics with digital, material, and technological ecologies. Despite criticism, it ultimately addresses the intersection of global and local challenges within the context of geopolitical, ecological, and migratory crises.


HUD explores humanitarian design through a radical trans- disciplinary and transvocational ethos, synthesizing the insights of social scientists, architects, development engineers, and practitioners. We focus our research on violence prevention in three contexts: detention settings; situations of forced mobility, and aid compounds. We do so with a global perspective but conduct core collaborative research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Colombia. 

HUDʼs ultimate goal is to design material, technological, and architectural interventions that transcend the binaries that currently divide humanitarian design. Namely, we seek to develop interventions that are neither entirely critical nor entirely pragmatic, neither entirely politicized nor entirely depoliticized, neither entirely global (ʼone size fits allʼ) nor entirely parochial. Instead, HUD seeks to open up different futures that disrupt such binaries in humanitarian design. 

HUD is also cultivating a wider research collective drawing on the insights of scholars, practitioners, and civil society groups who push the boundaries of humanitarian design. Indeed, HUD is an open and experimental initiative. We embrace an agile approach to integrating the needs of diverse, sometimes conflictual, stakeholders, as well as an openness to taking risks and shifting directions to better explore the many possible futures for humanitarian design. 

HUDʼs core research is led through a collaboration between the Geneva Graduate Institute, the University of Copenhagen, HEAD – Genève, and the EssentialTech Lab at EPFL Lausanne. HUDʼs work also integrates humanitarian practitioners from leading organizations and key partnerships with research institutions in Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our work is supported by a Swiss National Science Foundation Sinergia grant.


HUD Scientific Committee
Department of Interior Architecture, HEAD – Genève
Geneva Graduate Institute, IHEID
University of Copenhagen, KU
EssentialTech’s Humanitarian Division, EPFL

Project supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation Sinergia

Download the Conference Program here



Monday, May 13th, 2024

08:30 – 09:00 Welcome – H4.01

09:00 – 10:00 Introduction – H4.01

10:15 – 11:45 Practices & Collaborations – H4.01
Hartmut Behr (Newcastle): Bridging Conceptual Thinking with Political Practice Under Conditions of Uncertainty
Brita Fladvad (NTNU): Humanitarian Design and “The Real Problem” in Times of Poly and Permacrises
Christine Andrä (Groningen): Swords to Ploughshares, Guns to Peace? Admixtures of the FARCʼs Weapons with Art, Memory, and Disarmament in the Design of Doris Salcedoʼs Fragmentos 

12:00 – 13:00 Public Keynote – Design Room
Tom Scott-Smith (Oxford): Humility and Autonomy: Two Lessons from Humanitarian Shelter Design 

14:00 – 15:30 Places & Spaces – H4.01
Francesco Casalbordino (Naples): The Denied Place: Empowering the Right to Dwell Inside Prisons Through Design Actions.
Laurin Baumgardt (Rice University): Meantime Architectures: Shack Innovations and Incremental Designs in Cape Town
Vytautas Jankauskas (HEAD):

 15:30 – 15:45 Break 

15:45 – 17:15 Gaming & Participatory Practices – H4.01
Anne Brinkman; Douwe Buis (Bureauensemble): Exploring Participatory Humanitarian Design Practices
Emmanuel Guardiola (Cologne Game Lab): Humanitarian Gaming 

18:00 – 19:00 Public Keynote – Design Room
Samia Henni (ETH Zürich): Architecture of Counterrevolution 


Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

08:30 – 09:00 Welcome – H4.01 

09:00 – 10:00 Technology & Counter-Designs – H4.01
Rodrigo Ochigame (Leiden): Historicizing Technological Alternatives and Counter-Designs
Francesco Ragazzi (Leiden): Critical Re-design and Re- Enactment as Methods to Interrogate Humanitarian Design
Julis Charlotte Koch (Geneva Graduate Institute): Deep Play? Notes on the Future of Human and Non-Human Vulnerability 

10:15 – 11:45 Futures and Transformations – H4.01
Ala Uddin (Chittagong University): Resilient Futures: Transformative Humanitarian Design for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Jo Rose (York University): Climate Change and Humanitarian Aid
Riccardo Conti (Catalytic Action): Participatory Design with Children and Youth in Lebanon 

12:00 – 13:00 Public Keynote – H4.01
Juan David Reina-Rozo (Universidad Nacional de Colombia): Ethnofuturism, Design and Technodiversity: Towards Open Practice(s) 

14:00 – 15:30 Aesthetics – H4.01
Matthew Raj Webb (New York University): Fashion Design as Humanitarian Design: Elizabeth Bayley Willis and the United Nationsʼ Cold War Textile Diplomacy in India
Lisa Ann Richey (Copenhagen Business School): Utopian Demand in Humanitarian Communication Design? Ecological Observations from the 2022 Venice Art Biennale
Maryia Rusak (ETH Zürich): Regimes of Goodness or Good for Business? Pragmatic Lessons from Nordic Humanitarian Design Projects in East Africa 

15:45 – 16:45 Public Keynote – H4.01
Peter Redfield( University of Southern California): From Humanitarian Design to Technopolitical Imagination