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JVanDZRepair Manifesto*

A Platform 21 manifesto.

1. Make your products live longer!

Repairing means taking the opportunity to give your product a second life. Don’t ditch it, stitch it! Don’t end it, mend it! Repairing is not anti-consumption. It is anti- needlessly throwing things away.

2. Things should be designed so that they can be repaired.

Product designers: Make your products repairable. Share clear, understandable information about Do-It-Yourself (DIY) repairs. Consumers: Buy things you know can be repaired, or else find out why they don’t exist. Be critical and inquisitive.

3. Repair is not replacement.

Replacement is throwing away the broken bit. This is NOT the kind of repair that we’re talking about.

4. What doesn’t kill it makes it stronger.

Every time we repair something, we add to its potential, its history, its soul and its inherent beauty.

5. Repairing is a creative challenge.

Making repairs is good for the imagination. Using new techniques, tools and materials ushers in possibility rather than dead ends.

6. Repair survives fashion.

Repair is not about styling or trends. There are no due-dates for repairable items.

7. To repair is to discover.

As you fix objects, you’ll learn amazing things about how they actually work. Or don’t work.

8. Repair – even in good times!

If you think this manifesto has to do with the recession, forget it. This isn’t about money, it’s about a mentality.

9. Repaired things are unique.

Even fakes become originals when you repair them.

10. Repairing is about independence.

Don’t be a slave to technology – be its master. If it’s broken, fix it and make it better. And if you’re a master, empower others.

11. You can repair anything, even a plastic bag.

But we’d recommend getting a bag that will last longer, and then repairing it if necessary.

Stop Recycling. Start Repairing.

Notes to the Repair Manifestó [1]

Repairing does not come after designing, but is an integral part of the same process. Harvesting materials and functions from the environment around us, shaping and combining them into objects, and ultimately activating them through use and manipulation are all parts of the same operational chain. This includes also tinkering, hacking, adapting and repairing: all actions that aim at bringing an object onto a further stage of its active life.

A broken thing is in fact a chance to design and engage with functions and materiality. And when we refuse to engage with design, then we accept design to be imposed upon us in a top-down manner. A faulty or outmoded object should not be considered a nuisance, a burden to get rid of and consign to the dustbin, an all too fictional oblivion. An object, once materialized does not disappear by itself.

In our language and our imagination we continuously humanize objects. They are the subjects of verbs like working, moving, living and dying. In fact, what we are implicitly admitting through our words is that intentionality is something diffuse, because to accomplish a task we need the human and the material elements on equal terms. So to speak, also a door must actually want to let you in to give way when you push it.

As a matter of fact, using objects involves a material knowledge that is not always explicit. We do not need to be physicists to watch TV, or computer scientists to send an email. Repairing is an occasion to reveal this material knowledge and consciously acquire bits of it as we need them. Implicit material knowledge is about doing things fast and making time disappear. Making this knowledge explicit, instead, is an opportunity to create the time for learning and reflecting if and how we need to accomplish a certain function or own a certain object. It is time well spent.

So, do things have rights? A century ago, Adolf Loos equaled function-less decoration in design to crime because, he explained, ornament is a form of wasted labour, a form of disrespect towards the labour workers have to put into it. Loos has influenced and still influences generations of designers, even if we have now embraced the fact that decoration is never function-less: it always has a value, and we want our things to have value because we need to establish a relation of equality with them. However, can one today say that discarding an object only because it is not in fashion anymore, or because one tiny moving part is broken, is a form of disrespect towards its labour and its history, and hence a crime?

Recycling can consume the same or more energy as harvesting the raw materials from the environment, and can sometimes have an even more negative impact from an ecological point of view. Recycling is certainly today still a better solution than a culture of indiscriminate disposal. Yet, it involves costs and passages that can be drastically reduced when the product is simply not disposed of. Also, the product we entrust to the recyclers only because our brief love affair with it has ended, can often be perfectly functional and usable to someone else.

Repairing is not making do: it is about revealing the open-endedness of things, their limitless potentiality. It ultimately means unlocking the capital of labour and value the objects we surround ourselves with contain, and keeping it in circulation. The words waste and vast come from the same root: they originally referred to an immense but abandoned territory. It is up to us to explore it today and release the life and energies it contains.

*Joanna van der Zanden & Gabriele Oropallo: Designers

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