In its relatively brief history, the design school has always been not only a centre of learning but more crucially a site of production — one whose output is not the design product but rather the design student themselves. In the Netherlands, the number of students and programmes for design increase every year, yet the passing of time also poses a direct challenge to the traditional design industry and its clearly defined job roles. What, then, does design education mean today, particularly in the Netherlands, where design has evolved as a key creative industry and a tool of social change?

Today’s design student is something of a paradox. By virtue of their association with design schools, academies, and universities, they are “already” designers in the public gaze, used by their institutions for publicity, by magazines for content, by trend forecasters for inspiration, and more. At the same time, they can (and are often expected to) teach themselves skills, identify and pursue subjects of interest, and cultivate unique methodologies, with guidance from mentors who are more colleagues than masters. And yet their relative abundance of time and freedom of focus allows them to foreground research as fundamental to the design process without being completely absorbed by market forces.

How can Het Nieuwe Instituut interact with the diverse institutions in this transforming landscape to address the future role of the designer? And how can this conversation, 100 years after the publication of the Bauhaus manifesto, be revitalised? The project Canteen Curriculum will launch during the Salone del Mobile in Milan in April 2018 with a communal event at the former panettone factory ALCOVA near the Stazione Centrale di Milano. Het Nieuwe Instituut invites representatives (employees, administrators, students, and alumni) of a variety of schools in the Netherlands to come together around a shared canteen table, using the activity of pasta-making as a canvas for ideas, conversations, questions, and provocations for a future brief. The conversations and possible conclusions developed during the course of the launch event will be documented by Het Nieuwe Instituut and used to spark new collaborations, briefs, or projects in the lead-up to the 2019 programme Neuhaus in Rotterdam.

By Tamar Shafrir and Martina Muzi