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Prada Frames at Milan Design Week 2024 - Architectural Influence on Nature vs Nurture Psychology Debate

Updated: Apr 29

Iconic Italian fashion house Prada organized its third edition of the multidisciplinary symposium ‘Prada Frames’, curated by design agency Formafantasma, during Milan Design Week 2024. 

Award-winning design critic and author Alice Rawsthorn at Prada Frames
Award-winning design critic and author Alice Rawsthorn at Prada Frames

This edition, named Being Home, took place at the historical Bagatti Valsecchi residence and museum, with the purpose of examining our living environment as a framework for addressing challenges in modern society. 

From this multifaceted theme, the age-old question arises: to what extent are we able to develop an individual personality in the designed environments in which we live? Or in simpler terms: how much of who we are is nature vs nurture?

Prada Frames Session ‘Living Room - Being Queer’

The Living Room - Being Queer’ session by Prada Frames was held in the ‘Grand Salon’ of The Bagatti Valsecchi museum - the former living room which served as the central core of the house until 1974. 

The speakers included artist, architect, filmmaker and founder of JA Projects Jayden Ali together with Jack Halberstam, David Feinson Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, in conversation with Andres Jaque, architect, founder of the Office for Political Innovation, and dean and professor of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation.

This session explored habits of diaspora communities in homemaking and architectural spaces by looking at living spaces as holders of bodies that are yet to be dismantled, as well as normative enclosures; interpretations that resemble alternative and queer family structures.

The Grand Salon of Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, Milan Design Week, Salone del Mobile 2024
The Grand Salon of Museo Bagatti Valsecchi

Nature vs Nurture Psychology Debate in Light Of Architectural Design

The debate of nature vs nurture is one of the oldest debates in psychology and focuses on how influential or impactful genetics are in contrast to life experiences in the area of human development. We can compare the two concepts more easily by thinking of nature as ‘mental health’ and nurture as ‘contextual factors’.

The ‘Living Room - Being Queer’ session illuminated the powerful effect our environments can have based on how they are designed, including both domestic and public spaces, and the manner in which we move through life. 

In regards to the project ‘Safety in Public Space: Women, Girls and Gender Diverse People’, a programme of work for the urban development process in London by speaker Jayden Ali, fellow-speaker Jack Halberstam highlighted how we are largely unaware of the role architectural design plays in certain (dis)functionings of society.

Recognizing (Architectural) Boundaries and Looking Beyond Them

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated that ‘‘important discoveries have come from unearthing the manner in which the environment alters gene expression (and how genes impose limits on environmental effects)’’. Therefore, it can be argued that the juxtaposition of nature and nurture is ultimately dominated by the overarching aspect of architectural design, considering this as the tangible foundation of society that gives us directions, sets borders and indicates spaces we can individually or collectively occupy.

When we take into account the limits of possibilities and opportunities to develop ourselves both physically and emotionally, experience different environments and have a sense of safety and security to do so, we can contemplate whether the sources of these boundaries descend from our own abilities, or rather from the boundaries set by our (domestic) surroundings.

It takes a scrutinizing eye and a willingness to look beyond a considered ‘normal’ to recognize how different settings affect the decisions we make and the paths we follow

However, with a curious nature we might be surprised when discovering the sources that nurture our points of view, and how many more ways there can be to develop ourselves.

Prada Frames Session ‘Living Room - Being Queer’ in the Grand Salon - gettyimages, Milan Design Week, Salone del Mobile 2024


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