Massive Change

Traces of flight patterns of three European airlines

Text by Patrick Knowles

Massive Change is a project about possibilities. In the eyes of the Toronto-based collective, design takes on an unprecedented scope of contexts to answer a seemingly simple thesis put forth by Arnold J. Toynbee. The famed English historian and author of A Study of History held an optimistic belief that “the twentieth century will be chiefly remembered by future generations not as an era of political conflicts or technical inventions, but as an age in which human society dared to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective.”

While it might be easy for some to spiral into cynicism while watching the six o’clock news, Massive Change and the Institute Without Boundaries trust that, beneath the sometimes brutal moments of the human condition, progress is being made towards a better future. Topics are addressed in various social economies, tackling everything from urban development to sustainable movement. In the end, the thorough nature of the process leaves one hard-pressed to come away without imagining visionary strides in the field of design.

Founded by the acclaimed designer Bruce Mau in 2003, the studio is, at its heart, a collaborative effort rooted in sharing ideas and experiences to consider new ways of interacting with the world. Each year the collective invites a select group of 12 international students to embark on the task of rethinking the complexity of the social context from a variety of disciplines.

Speaking from the main office, Vannesa Ahuactzin, who was one of the first students during the inception of the Institute Without Boundaries and who is now its creative director, pauses thoughtfully when asked what was the most useful lesson she has taken from working with Massive Change. “Well, it is this idea that the possibilities are endless,” she says. “It taught me to be an entrepreneur and to become a person who is not afraid to reach out and connect everything. The idea of information sharing is very possible in this world and our ability to ask questions and speak with others creates so many exciting opportunities.”

This September also marks the first showcase of Massive Change in the U.S. with a highly-anticipated show at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. While it may be interesting to see how the collective is received compared to our Canadian neighbors, the show will certainly introduce new concepts of design and ways of viewing the context that surrounds us.


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