Gabriele Oropallo

Studio 14: Design and Nature: Forms of an Entanglement

Photo: Bird nest with intertwined twigs, moss, polyethylene bands, and other found materials. Collection of the Domaine de Boisbuchet, Lessac, France.

Studio brief

The more design I have, the more nature I crave. And vice versa. This studio examines the relationship between the human-made and nature through a series of thematic seminars and other activities such as site or studio visits, writing workshops, critical screenings, and object-based non-verbal research. We will look at how the idea of nature has been constructed over time and place, and study its impact on design practice in an age marked by the sustainability imperative. The discussions will also examine how design has been alternatively accused of being a contributor to the environmental crisis, or mobilised as a means to tackle the very crisis. The course topics will include design strategies, materials, visual culture, and artefacts. During the studio you will be able to develop and present on your individual projects through formats including and not limited to writing, making, film, or installation.

Week 1-7

  • Week 1: Introduction
  • Week 2: The Construction of nature I: Extension of the human-made
  • Week 3: Design as crime and fix: Individual vs collective action
  • Week 4: Nature fetishism: Biocentrism and biomimicry
  • Week 5: Plastics, concrete, and other anthropocene materials
  • Week 6: Lifespan vs life cycles: Perdurance or obduracy
  • Week 7: The construction of nature II: Digital wilderness


  1. Giorgio Agamben, "What is an Apparatus?", in What is an Apparatus? And Other Essays, Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009, pp. 1-24.
  2. Jane Bennett, The Force of Things: Steps toward an Ecology of Matter, Political Theory 32.3, 2004: 347-372. 
  3. Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigly, Are We Human? Notes on an Archaeology of Design, Zürich: Lars Müller, 2016.
  4. Adrian Forty, "Natural or Unnatural", in Concrete and Culture: A Material History, London: Reaktion, 2012, pp. 43-78.
  5. Jennifer Gabrys, “Introduction,” “Media in the Dump,” and “Conclusion”, in Digital Rubbish, Ann Harbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2011, pp. 1-19, 127-158. 
  6. Harry Gugger and Bárbara Maçães Costa, Urban-Nature: The Ecology of Planetary Artifice, San Rocco 10, 2015: 32-40.
  7. Ian Hodder, “The Evolution and Persistence of Things,” in Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships Between Humans and Things, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012, pp. 138-157. 
  8. Steven J. Jackson, “Rethinking Repair,” in Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski, and Kirsten Foot, eds. Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality and Society, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2014, pp. 221-239.
  9. Finn Arne Jørgensen, Why Look at Cabin Porn? Public Culture 3.27, 2015: 557-578.
  10. Betti Marenko, Neo-Animism and Design: A New Paradigm in Object Theory, Design and Culture 2.6: 2014: 219-241. 
  11. Koert van Mensvoort, Real Nature is Not Green, Next Nature, 6 November 2006. 
  12. Jussi Parikka, “Fossil Futures,” in A Geology of Media, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2015, pp. 109-135.
  13. Jennifer L Roberts, “Lucubrations on a Lava Lamp: Technocracy, Counterculture, and Containment in the American Sixties,” in Jules David Prown and Kenneth Haltman, eds. American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture, East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2000, pp. 167-190.
  14. John Ralston Saul, “Literature and the Environment”, in Stuart Walker and Jacques Giard, eds. The Handbook of Design for Sustainability, London: Bloomsbury, 2013, pp. 523-528.
  15. Sabine Schulz Blank, The Pressure of Conservation: How the Imaginary of ‘Wild’ Nature Was Formed and How to Rid Ourselves of It, San Rocco 10, 2015: 72-82.


Gabriele Oropallo is a researcher and lecturer in design and technology. His most recent research examined how the environmental crisis altered practice and mediation of design and architecture. He is a founding member of critical design practices Repair Society and Arquipélagos Urbanos, with which he participated respectively to the Istanbul Design Biennial and São Paulo Architecture Biennial. In 2016, he managed the Design and Architecture programme of the Domaine de Boisbuchet, France, themed on Origin and Translation. In 2017, he was a convenor of the Design History Society Annual Conference on Making and Unmaking the Environment. He regularly contributes to form design magazine and the Bloomsbury Design Library. His recent publications include chapters in books like Iconic Designs (2015), Design Culture (2018), and Crafting Economies (2018).


Tutor Gabriele Oropallo

Dissertation Studios

Studio 1: Another India

Harriet McKay

Studio 1: Another India will examine, reflect upon and critique the historic use of "exotic" motifs in design.

Studio 2: Contemporary Ecology

Nabil Ahmed

In Studio 2 we will explore environmental topics through the lens of art, architecture, spatial practice, media and design disciplines.

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry

Christina Paine

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry is an exploration of race, gender, class and more in music.

Studio 4: Not allowed

Emma Davenport

Studio 4: What Not to Wear? will investigate the roles that dress and fashion play in our workplaces.

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories

Ektoras Arkomanis

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories allows you to critically examine any work that can be seen as theory or presents an interesting relationship with theory.

Studio 6: Curating as a Spatial Practice: From the Wunderkammer to Installation art

Nico de Oliveira

Studio 6: This dissertation studio is designed to help students who are interested in curating as a broad subject, as well as those who wish to contextualise their own practice within the scope of displaying art.

Studio 7: Souvenir

Dr Lesley Stevenson

Studio 7: This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past.

Studio 8: Post – card

Edwina Attlee

Studio 8 will look at one element of that system – the picture postcard – from a number of different perspectives.

Studio 9: ‘The Form of the Text’

Danielle Hewitt

Studio 9: Together we will explore the space of criticism; acknowledging our point of encounter with objects, places, sites and processes and the relationship between text, writer and reader.

Studio 10: Constellating

Sinead Evans

As creative practitioners we digest and produce images every day – as citizens of the digital age we consume between hundreds and thousands of images each day. This dissertation studio will slim down your daily diet to one image.

Studio 11: Science Fiction Futurity

Luke Jones

Speculative descriptions of the future reveal a magnified — or distorted — reflection of the fears and desires of the present.

Studio 12: Alternative Fashioned Modernities

Lezley George

Much is happening in the world today that foregrounds questions pertinent to our identities in a globalised world.

Studio 13: Desire, Trauma, History

Jonathan Whitehall

How does the relationship of memory to fantasy affect history? What are the links between desire, sexuality and trauma? How are these relationships played out or negotiated in visual and written practice? These questions will form the beginning of our enquiries into artworks, films and literature.

Studio 14: Design and Nature: Forms of an Entanglement

Gabriele Oropallo

We will look at how the idea of nature has been constructed over time and place, and study its impact on design practice in an age marked by the sustainability imperative.

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas

Lewis Jones

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas encourages you to explore how and why we make music, including its origin, relationship to technology and more.

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling

Jon Baldwin

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling will see you produce storygraphs, storyboards and various forms of narrative analysis in the seminars.

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences

Jeremy Collins

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences will encourage you to study an audience group using qualitative research methods in your investigations.

Studio 18: Time and the Image

David Howells

This workshop will address some perennial problems of writing in the field of visual culture.

Studio 19: Material in Motion

Heidi Yeo

Studio 19: This studio will explore a reading of objects focusing on the interplay between materials, the objects they form and their context.

Studio 20: The Liminal

Andrew Hewish

This Dissertation Studio examines instances of the liminal as they occur in critical theory and culture, and is open to any topic and students from all disciplines.

Studio 21: Reading the library (and nothing but the library)

Joseph Kohlmaier

This year, Studio 21 will stage an unusual experiment. It will move, unpack, catalogue, and perform readings from one private library; and make this library, without exception, the single resource for all the research and writing in the studio.

Studio 22: Meaningful work

Paul Harper

Studio 22: Meaningful work explores the value of making and the idea of craft as meaningful work.

Studio 23: A Common Thread

Gina Pierce

Studio 23: In A Common Thread, we unpick and examine the importance of textiles and how they underpin culture, industry, and global connections.

Cass Studios archive by year