Design for Communities

Giacomo Moor for LiveinSlums

Photographies by Francesco Giusti, Filippo Romano, Alessandro Treves, Mattia Zoppellaro

Curated by Davide Fabio Colaci in collaboration with Federica Sala from a project by LiveinSlums

April - May 2023

Design for Communities

Giacomo Moor for LiveinSlums

Photographies by Francesco Giusti, Filippo Romano, Alessandro Treves, Mattia Zoppellaro

Curated by Davide Fabio Colaci in collaboration with Federica Sala from a project by LiveinSlums

April - May 2023

Design for Communities, Giacomo Moor for LiveinSlums. Photo by LiveinSlums

From April 18th to May 26th, 2023
From Wednesday to Friday from 3 pm to 7 pm
Saturday, appointment only

Sunday 16th April from 4 pm to 21 pm

From Tuesday 18 April to Sunday 23 April from 10 am to 7 pm

Access with Assab One 2022 membership card (€10)
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Assab One presents Design for Communities Giacomo Moor for LiveinSlums, an NGO working in highly critical urban areas. The organisation has been carrying out valuable urban regeneration work for years, providing the children and youth in Mathare, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, with the means necessary for their reintegration into school and work.

Giacomo Moor traveled to Mathare to make prototypes of the furniture for the dining hall and dormitory of the Why Not Academy, a local school that accommodates about 300 children. The making of benches, tables, and beds took place together with the Mathare children, giving them the opportunity to learn new techniques, get paid for their work, and at the same time create furniture of high formal and functional quality for a more conscious design.

A design logic based on “production simplification” was triggered through a formal synthesis in which everything superfluous or decorative is eliminated. The designed construction system ensures structural stability through sequential joints between the various components and can be applied to different types of furniture: table, bench, bed. The horizontal table tops have the function of a padlock and, screwed to the longitudinal chains, close a fully reversible dry system, giving the possibility of replacing individual pieces damaged by time or weathering. A manufacturing process that, without complex machinery, uses chisel, square and pencil as the only tools for the construction of the pieces, and thanks to the absence of visible nails and screws, becomes simple and immediate to make. Thus the theme of interlocking, usually and rightly associated with complex cabinetmaking techniques, is reinterpreted while retaining its preciousness for the making of simple furniture for community living.

Each of these furnishings is a symbol of an active and flexible community life, capable of supporting places for people to meet and exchange: the real engine of the Mathare slum. A community that will be told through an installation conceived by Davide Fabio Colaci with the works of the photographers Francesco Giusti, Filippo Romano,  Alessandro Treves and Mattia Zoppellaro.


Giacomo Moor (1981), after graduating in Design with a thesis on wood defects, published on Abitare magazine, he founds his studio in Milan in 2009. Together with his multidisciplinary team, made up of carpenters and designers, he develops products for companies, creates limited editions for design galleries and design and produces interiors for private clients, always supervising the entire creative process. His ability to combine technical and aesthetic skills, supervising the aspects related to production, are constant elements of his working method. He has participated in different exhibitions in Paris, London, New York, Singapore, Porto and other cities. Among his clients: Acerbis, Desalto, Galleria Luisa delle Piane, Giustini/Stagetti, Memphis, Spotti Milano, Triennale di Milano, Wallpaper, and Yoox.

Francesco Giusti (1969), a documentary photographer oriented toward the investigation of contemporary, social and identity related issues. Throughout the years he has explored different approaches: from photojournalistic essays to portrait stories to long term documentary-based projects. He has been awarded with prizes from different organizations such as the World Press Photo 2010. He is a lecturer in photography at NABA and he is co-founder of LiveinSlums.

Filippo Romano (1968) studied photography at the I.C.P. in New York. He is a documentary photographer working on architecture and urban landscape. He teaches in the NABA and IUAV masters of photography. He has collaborated with Domus, Abitare, Io Donna Newsweek and many other Italian and foreign magazines, is a founding member of the NGO LiveinSlums with which he has been running a project on Nairobi for 10 years.

Alessandro Treves (1988), born in a small town in the mountains of Piedmont, moved to Milan at the age of 19. He began pharmacy studies, which he would later drop out during an Erasmus to Oslo, where he would stay to work as an assistant in a photography studio. He wins a scholarship at the Istituto Superiore di Fotografia e Comunicazione in Rome during which he will also work as an assistant at Paolo Pellegrin’s studio. His studio is in Milan where he works mainly on publishing, fashion and photojournalism projects.

Mattia Zoppellaro (1977) studied photography at IED in Milan from 1997 to 2002. In 2003, after two years of working experience at the Photography department of Fabrica (Benetton’s Communication Research Centre), he moved to England, where he started shooting for several music magazines and record labels. At the same time, he develops different projects from social reportage, to entertainment and youth culture features. His images have been exhibited at various fairs and institutions such as the National Portrait Gallery in London, Photo España, Paris Photo. He collaborates with national and international magazines and clients.

LiveinSlums is an NGO that implements humanitarian projects for disadvantaged contexts in developing countries. Active since 2008 in Italy and in several countries (Kenya, Egypt, Romania, Brazil, Haiti), it focuses its efforts in the slums of megacities and in fragile urban areas, through development and urban regeneration programs such as: agricultural and landscape projects related to food production and food security; animal farms, school construction, micro-credit activities.

Davide Fabio Colaci lives and works in Milan. He studied between the Faculty of Architecture of Porto and the Politecnico in Milan where he graduated and obtained a Ph.D. in Interior and Exhibition Design with Andrea Branzi. He is a professor of Interior Architecture design at the Politecnico in Milan and a lecturer in the Master of Interior Design program at NABA. In 2012 he founded his own studio with the aim of investigating the spaces and forms of contemporaneity, he carries out independent critical work as a curator for institutions and companies. He writes about design by being inspired by the changes affecting our culture.

Federica Sala, an independent curator and design advisor. She has been formed in the design department of Centre Pompidou. She collaborated with Fabrica, miart, 5VIE Art+Design, Airbnb, Vogue Italia, Cassina… In 2018 she curated, with Patricia Urquiola, the exhibition ACastiglioni at Triennale di Milano and she’s been part of the curatorial team for the new born ADI Design Museum with the exhibition about Giulio Castelli. She has an ongoing collaboration with Rizzoli International and since July 2022 she’s the Editor-in-chief of The Good Life Italia, a magazine about business&lifestyle.

Talking about the project for LiveinSlums, Giacomo Moor

“The invitation from LiveinSlums to design furniture for the dining hall and dormitory of the Mathare primary school, one of the largest Slums of Nairobi, was a unique opportunity to implement a research process that has been with me for some time.

The specific request of making prototypes on site together with the students of the school, allowing them to be fully autonomous for subsequent production, triggered a design logic based on production simplification.

The resulting construction system ensures structural stability through sequential joints between the various components and can be applied to different types of furniture: table, bench, bed…

Each element involved is necessary to create structure in a formal synthesis in which everything superfluous or decorative is eliminated.

The horizontal support plates have the function of a padlock and, screwed to the longitudinal chains, close a completely dry and therefore reversible system, making it possible to replace individual parts that may have been damaged by wear and tear or weathering.

The geometry of the joints on solid wood, dry and orthogonal, allows workmanship by hand without complex machinery: chisel, square and pencil are the only tools required to make the pieces.

The section of the components also follows a logic of repetition that recurs on legs, crosspieces and chains, thus minimising the possibility of error and optimising the process.

The theme of interlocking, often and rightly associated with complex cabinet-making techniques, is reinterpreted, on the one hand retaining its character of preciousness, thanks in part to the absence of visible nails and screws, and on the other hand becoming simple and immediate to realise.”

Designing with care, Davide Fabio Colaci

The idea of designing beds, tables and benches for the canteen and dormitory of the elementary school of Mathare does not come solely from a material need of the Why Not Academy community, a need that exists alongside with many others and which certainly should not be underestimated. But the idea that the design of a set of furniture can be a vector for change is the reason why Liveinslums has, for years, been asking internationally renowned designers to conceive of projects with their own community. Transmitting design quality in their spaces expresses that primary (ethical and aesthetic) value of which design has always been the bearer, and which in contexts like these seems to call for even greater care. A bench, a table and a bed are signs that are almost like those of the foundations of a city, in how they describe how a community has decided to link itself to the place and how it has decided to structure its relationships.

In this case the formal simplification of the furniture designed by Giacomo Moor has no value as an “exercise of subtraction”, but on the contrary amplifies the potential uses through a reduction in the complexity of the constructive and material logic. Above all, however, it rewrites that principle of adaptability which a piece of furniture should have in any place and which here seems like an inevitable necessity. Furniture as a symbol of community living, as meeting places, devices that can unite, replicate and change in a potentially infinite chain of logic, where the pieces can always be replaced, reminding us that the life cycle of a piece of furniture never ends, especially in contexts such as this. Contexts, that is, where living is still the most mysterious function there is, where a material and immaterial orography is constructed out of relationships capable of producing overwhelmingly powerful images.

This is reason why we decided to make Mathare and its complexity of relationships visible through the story of four exceptional photographers: Francesco Giusti, Filippo Romano, Alessandro Treves and Mattia Zoppellaro. Their photos do not require any demarcation of gender other than that of representing a mosaic of emotions and ambiguities from a country that has no borders when it comes to its human energy. Each photographer, with their individual stylistic code, has interpreted places, atmospheres, architecture and characters, bearers of a rich but elusive sense of community. Abandoning the purely documentary aspect, the details, materials, expressions and colors that belong to the slum seem to contain a potential energy far superior to their material reality. And in this analytical and emotional interpretation, Mathare seems to take a form that reaches beyond the moment of the shot to insert itself back into a broader rhythm that transcends the photographer’s gaze and gets straight to its essence.

Text by Federica Sala

A few months ago I was talking with Elena about the next edition of 1+1+1.
We both had the feeling that the project needed a breakthrough, or at least a break.
But at the same time we didn’t want to give up on the dialogue and collective dimension that characterized it and that has always been the soul of that unique place that is Assab.
Yes, because Assab One is a community of artists of all disciplines, who only with difficulty will fully step out the place’s circle of empathy, and who, on the contrary, show a sincere attachment to what for many has been an important training ground.
While we were in this limbo, Live in Slums arrived on the table.
A project that is the quintessence of community and dialogue and which sees many mutual friends of Assab One united towards new, only apparently distant, territories.
And it was immediately clear to both of us that taking a step back was the right decision, but in order to take two steps forward alongside Giacomo Moor, Davide Fabio Colaci, Silvia Orazi as well as all the Perimetro photographers and all the people involved such as Luisa Bertoldo, Martina Gamboni and La Tigre.
A sort of 1+1+1 to the nth degree, centered around the value of relay, of knowing how to pass the baton to someone else, as Giacomo did by designing an easy-to-build modular system and then teaching how to build it, thereby giving it future autonomy.
It is with this idea of a future to be achieved step by step, hand by hand, creating links with those who have been and who will be, that Assab One has just celebrated its first twenty years of activity.

Text by Elena Quarestani

It is not at all obvious that for the Salone del Mobile, Milan’s most international moment, and the ideal occasion to make a name for oneself in the world of design, a young designer would present a non-profit project intended for non-commercial use. It is for this reason that Assab One has decided to make it an exhibition open to the public for over a month.
And then Africa, which has forever been evoked in the story of who we are (Assab, the port in Eritrea, our address, symbol of a possible place of meeting and exchange, a physical and ideal space open to the neighborhood and to the city in dialogue with artists and similar initiatives in Italy and around the world), but for the first time present in a concrete project and through the different gazes of four photographers.
The beauty of this unusually generous and unconventional exhibition is also the participation of many people, all with their own creative and professional skills. A collective work, motivated by a common purpose, exactly in the spirit of Assab One.

  • Giacomo Moor for LiveinSlums
  • Photo by Francesco Giusti
  • Photo by Filippo Romano
  • Photo by Alessandro Treves
  • Photo by Mattia Zoppellaro