PhD Program in Design


Design, Tradition and Craft: the case of Almalaguês

Design, Tradition and Craft: the case of Almalaguês

António João Gomes
Supervisors: Álvaro Sousa, Heitor Alvelos


This project aims to contribute to a recalibration of a relevant and relatively forgotten handloom weaving centre in Europe, Almalaguês (Portugal).

It is intended that this recalibration should be founded on the sound bedrock of a participatory design methodology, which will seek to be attentive to the traditional references of the activity, to the creative trends and international styles, and to the inclusion of “green materials” from the new technologies. Therefore, we will try to contribute to the understanding of design participation in the creation, qualification and increased worth of craft products.

The abandonment of craft activities represents the disappearance of technical knowledge, and of socioeconomic, cultural and identity values of great local importance. In contradiction to this abandonment, and on an international scale, there has been an upsurge in the development and discussion of trends that shape new artisans and different professional and academic approaches to the issue of craft / design. This state of affairs leads us to a reinterpretation of the history of design and of one of its precursors, artisanal handicraft, from the perspective of post-industrial renaissance.

Artisanal handicraft, its definition and its discourse continue to be subject matter of academic debate, and in recent years growing approaches to craft activities have been witnessed, caused by changes in the socioeconomic paradigm worldwide, as well as in competitiveness factors inherent in the material assets of exclusivity and luxury. On the other hand, considerable emphasis has been laid on trends that regard handicraft as a refuge and a criticism to situation of material consumption, claiming values intrinsic to craft activities, namely authenticity, responsibility, supportiveness and contribution to equity in work and social relations.

Due to this miscellanea, the boundaries of the disciplines are no longer hermetic and have become fluid and diluted. These communities of artisans, “designer-entrepreneurs”, “designer-craftsmen” find on the internet, in academic training, in creative laboratories, their training, interconnection and discussion centres, inventing new speeches and recovering techniques and old habits, bringing artisanal handicraft into the mainstream.

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