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Realists of a Larger Reality: Cities, Political Imagination and Social Creativity

Week 1
18–24 Jul 2021
Engaging with the Trouble: (Re-)Designing Complexity
Gabriella Gomez-Mont (MX)
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We are nothing except in the context of our interdependencies; our sense of self continuously being recreated by all that surrounds us, human and urban, “real” and not. Our metaphors, our stories, our fictions, our urban imaginaries give shape to the world as much as our social, economic and political contexts. Hence public imagination has become of paramount importance; we however lack almost entirely an infrastructure of (and for) imagination.

In this workshop we will explore (conceptually, practically, creatively) how a society or community can be prompted to imagine a life together, to jointly act and explore alternatives and possibilities at the scale of a city, and within its multiple tensions… What novel political forms, urban languages, creative institutions and civic typologies could we invent? Pointing towards the politics of tomorrow, in which creative practices assume a core role in society.


Gabriella will share her experience as Chief Creative Officer of Mexico City, as well as on-going projects with several cities across the world. Hence, she is interested in forming a transdisciplinary group of people who want to think both practically and imaginatively about the subjects at hand. In that way, the research, conversations and ideation process of this workshop can have the potential to inform real-life projects.

  • Political, social and urban scientists; designers, architects, artists, curators, writers, and other creative practitioners
  • Advanced students and young, talented professionals interested in hybrid practices and experimentation
  • Good at thinking across urban scales and disciplines: from democracy to self-expression; from policy to design; from activism to aesthetics
  • Interested in exploring how to work in complex scenarios, going beyond hypothetical exercises and moving into real life

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.”

Ursula K Le Guin

Gabriella Gomez-Mont (MX)

Gabriella Gómez-Mont is the former Chief Creative Officer of Mexico City, and the founder of Laboratorio para la Ciudad (2013 — 2018), the award-winning experimental arm of the Mexico City government. She now directs Experimentalista, a new type of nomadic and creative office specialized in cities – and constantly shifts shape to accommodate high-level, transdisciplinary collaborations across the world. 

Besides her fascination with all things city, Gabriella is a journalist, visual artist, and director of documentary films, as well as a creative advisor to several cities, universities and companies. She has received several international recognitions for her work in different fields, such as the first prize in the Audi Urban Future Award, the Best Art Practice Award given by the Italian government, The Creative Bureaucrats Award by the German government, and the TED City 2.0 Prize, among others. She is a TED Senior Fellow, an Institute for the Future Fellow, a Salzburg Seminar Fellow, a Fabrica Alumni and a World Cities Summit Young Leader. Gabriella is also part of the international advisory committee for the Mayor of Seoul on Social Innovation, as well as NACTO’s Streets for Kids, The XXII Triennale of Milan, C40’s Knowledge Hub, Harvard’s Mexican Cities Initiative, Canada’s MaRS Lab, NYU’s Gov Lab and Nesta’s research on the Future of Public Imagination. She was also named one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company magazine.
Both the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Mayor’s School (a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative in collaboration with the Kennedy School) dedicate an afternoon every year to discussing the Mapatón” case study – one of the Labs emblematic experiments — as an example of how imaginative civic engagement can help solve urban challenges at scale. Based on the lessons of Laboratorio para la Ciudad, but with an even more international perspective.

Gabriella Gomez-Mont (MX)