Petra Lilja
Design Studio

Research & Education

Petra Lilja is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Arts, Crafts and Design (Konstfack) and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Through the roles of the curator, the designer and the researcher she is exploring a project titled Cultivating Caring Coexistence. As a senior design lecturer Petra Lilja's focus lays in emerging design disciplines like critical, speculative & metadesign. Between 2013 and 2018 she has worked at the Design + Change Design Programmes at Linnaeus University.

Design research

Petra Lilja's design research is both academic and practice based, and currently she’s a PhD student at the University of Arts, Crafts and Design (Konstfack) and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Previously, her research was conducted within the fields of Creative Critical Expressions, merging her work at Linnaeus University and her studio work. 

The paradigm of human exceptionality has set in motion a machinery of global effects of which design, by adding to mass-production and consumption, can be argued to be one principal cog. In my work I explore ways to critically examine the role of the designer. One aim is to disrupt human-centeredness and open up for reconfigurations of design practices to better engage with troubled presents where a myriad of other species is overlooked and becoming extinct. I'm interested in unpacking these unequal power hierarchies created by human activity, and my research project will explore multispecies-inclusive narratives and strategies for engaging and empowering scales of actors and knowledges otherwise unaddressed.

In the initial part of my PhD I will work from a curatorial perspective, researching the project The Age of Entanglements using speculative design as an approach to create multi-planetary future scenarios, as a tool to reflect on current earthly situations.

Link to PhD research profile at Konstfack.

Research presentations:

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Fictioning - Transmedia workshop 

Fictioning is an exercise in attentiveness considered a potential opening towards the development of new aesthetic sensibilities and mythopoetic fictional universes. Working across different senses and media, participants create a series of fictions based on sounds recorded in the local environment. Exploring notions of collaborative fictioning, sounds recorded around a specific location are turned into interwoven sketches and fragments of narrative. The result is edited collaboratively and included in an expanding archive of printed material documenting the various iterations of the project in different contexts and settings.

The workshops was firstly held by Ola Ståhl and Sara Hyltén-Cavallius at Petra Lilja Design Gallery, Kirseberg, Malmö. Developed by Ola Ståhl and Petra Lilja and held in Kristianstad as part of the exhibition Wandelost and at STPLN, Malmö as part of HÅLL! Sustainability by Design Festival. Link

Food Body Design

Designer Petra Lilja media artist Zeenath Hasan are speculating on the future of food production and proposing a wearable fermentation kit that is set up and kept alive with heat from the human body. By looking at the body metaphorically as soil, they will explore the notion of harvesting – from the body. The explorations are ongoing, starting off in May 2017, they made an open food workshop in the village of Gislöv, Skåne, together with artist Gunnel Pettersson, inviting the community in a discussion around cultivation, harvesting and production.

Petra & Zeenath have collaborated as lecturers in speculative design. Petra and Gunnel are working together in the group Smedjan. Both Gunnel and Zeenath were part of Petra Lilja Design Gallery’s program Design Research in the Gallery, verbally, materially and in action, 2016.

Sugar archive

Through moving image, text and audio Petra Lilja explores sugar with the starting point in the sugar beet as a historically important symbol of agriculture and industry in Scania, southern Sweden. The sugar archive started when she was asked to partake the exhibition Wanderlost in the town of Kristianstad. Her personal anchoring to the town being born and living there until the age of 13, and the fact that agriculture and sugar beet harvesting is only one generation away in her family, makes the foundation of the project. The research based material was then combined with the method of writing constrains in a series of word collages as well as image collages. The exhibition showed a movie and a printed material. All in Swedish.

Assistants: Kristin Elizabeth Løberg and Sara Sigurdardottir

Education & Pedagogy

Petra Lilja has been lecturing and tutoring at the design programs of Malmö University, IKDC, Lund University, KADK, Copenhagen, HDK, Steneby, Gothenburg University and Linnaeus University and she's also frequently visiting Österlenskolan för Konst & Design as guest examiner, lecturer and workshop leader. Since 2013 she has divided her time between her freelance design work and the department of design at Linnaeus University. As senior design lecturer and program coordinator of the cutting edge Design + Change Programme and updating the Design Master Programme, she’s got valuable experience in running design programs on Bachelor as well as Master level. In her teaching, focus lays in emerging design disciplines like critical design, speculative design and metadesign as well as design and sustainability, design process, curatorial work and exhibition design. Petra Lilja taught her first university course in 2010 on the topic Design and sustainability and has since then integrated her design practice with her academic career as coordinator, lecturer and researcher. 

Some examples of lectures, workshops and courses, undergraduate or graduate level design programs:

Invisibilities in Design is a workshop where  lectures are interwoven with workshops introducing sustainability to design students. It is taught in the versions basic and advanced depending on graduate level. Staring by pouring a pile of garbage in the center of the room the workshop develops into a hands-on practical experience for the students gaining knowledge how to analyze the material components, origins and life cycles of the waste. The students conduct research and develop a design project where they visualize the controversies found, in a chosen manner. A varied way of teaching, with an element of surprise! Taught at  the Industrial Design, IKDC, Lund University

Småland is a 10 week long course where the design students work within the local context, with its stakeholders and its relationships between the urban and the rural. The aim is to develop a design proposal in cooperation with regional actors where design is an agent for sustainable change. It can be a proposal for a product, service or system, which connects a selection of stakeholders in order to provide new values or them, and the region. Taught at Design + Change, Linnaeus University, developed in collaboration with Åsa Ståhl.

Transdisciplinary Design and Sustainability Together with colleague Ola Ståhl at LNU, Petra Lilja developed a pilot course in transdisciplinary design and sustainability to explore ways for designers to work successfully cross-disciplines in order to understand and act upon the complexity of many sustainability issues. Transdisciplinarity, in our definition of the term, is an attempt to create spaces for thought and action. Taught at the Design + Change Master Programme, Linnaeus University

Design Relay is a 7,5 credit course introducing bachelor design students to a vast amount of design methods in a relay mode where all groups of students are collectively working and reworking each others projects. A fun and intense journey! Taught at Design + Change BA, Linnaeus University





Petra Lilja has taught and coordinated over 20 different design courses at graduate and undergraduate levels, held numerous lectures and workshops at for example HDK/Steneby, KADK (DK), Kolding Designskole (DK) and Österlensskolan för Konst och Design in addition to Lund University and Linnaeus University (SE).

From 2017-19 she was involved with the Design + Change course for the Greenhouse stand at Stockholm Furniture Fair. For example the award winning concept in 2018 Hurry up before we collapse, designed by Design + Change second year students 2018.

She has been invited guest curator and tutor for HDK/Steneby's exhibition at the Stockholm Furniture Fair 2016.

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