Laia, collective knowledge in global context

Laia, collective knowledge in global context
picture by Marius
Laia speaks for El Clot, Barcelona, learning from residents and preserving local culture while supporting projects and guiding newcomers.

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
We are two multidisciplinary designers, researching on urban and societal development.
Team members
Marius Schairer
Núria Valsells Vilalta
Field of work
Design, Engineering, Research
Project category
Project submitted

Núria Valsells Vilalta, from Barcelona, studied Industrial Design Engineering and Product Development. She worked at a photovoltaic engineering cooperative in Barcelona. She pursued a Master's in Social Design in Milan, focusing on urbanism, but didn't complete it due to unmet expectations in the second year, prompting her return to Barcelona. Her interests lie in social design, urban transformation, design for degrowth, and citizen participation and activation.

Marius Schairer, from Stuttgart, Germany, studied Internet of Things in another German city, Waiblingen. Currently, he works at a international digital product and service design company based in Germany while pursuing his Master's degree. His interests revolve around projects that intertwine scale, technology, and society.

Laia's team was formed through the Master's program in Design for Emerging Futures, where Núria and Marius met. This program delves into new trends, issues, materials, and emerging resources, exploring how design can address them. Collaborating gradually, they discovered shared interests they want to explore further through joint projects.

Laia Project responds to the gentrification of cities like Barcelona, focusing on preserving local knowledge. As cities globalize, communities weaken, covered by a focus on productivity. Online platforms replace traditional networks, taking the role of local institutions. Globalized media fuses cultural tastes, risking loss of local identity.

Laia addresses these challenges by empowering communities to reconnect and engage in neighborhood initiatives. By utilizing technology mindfully, the project transforms it into a tool for collective intelligence. By tackling the root causes of neighborhood disconnection, Laia aims to create resilient, sustainable, and equitable communities.

The Laia project started with a machine that asked people: "What would you say to your city?". As the prototype progressed, we enabled transcribing user responses. To improve, we focused on defining Barcelona's voice, starting with the neighborhood of El Clot. Akasha Hub, a community in El Clot, provided essential references and became our first collaborator.

We are reaching out to associations of El Clot while developing Laia. Laia's third version included an online form for residents to share their knowledge, ensuring answers incorporated collective wisdom.

Currently, we conduct workshops with the community, gathering feedback to shape Laia's future versions. Our ongoing engagement aims to refine Laia and better serve the neighborhood's needs.

Until beggining of 2025, we plan on expanding Laia with El Clot community to gain local recognition and become a reference for everyone. We aim to build a final prototype that can be used in the public space without supervision.

Looking ahead on the long term, we envision the project evolving into a scalable platform that can be implemented in diverse urban contexts around the world. We would like to create a “Laia Guide” to collect and group all the steps we have done with the project in El Clot and make the project open source.