We were most happy to have also the Cucula Refugees Company for Crafts and Design as a participant of the second State of Design, Berlin festival last year. Cucula is a Berlin-based pilot project, non-profit association, workshop and educational program in one, which supports refugees in building a future through furniture. Its first collection, which finally put Enzo Mari's radical 1974 ‘Autoprogettazione’ DIY-project into production, instantly turned Cucula into an international success.


Cucula was created for and together with refugees in Berlin, in reaction to the all too often purely theoretical debate about the situation of refugees in Germany. In contrast, its initiators strive for a pragmatic, immediate and action-oriented approach – by offering the refugees the opportunity to empower themselves through education and the building of furniture. The name Cucula stems from the Hausa language in western central Africa, and means ‚to do something together’, as well as ‚ to take care of each other’. In line with that spirit, the aim and object of the association is to achieve something “together with” the refugees and not simply “for them”.

cucula design refugees

cucula design max borka

cucula design refugees

Arriving, building ones own future, experiencing self-efficacy, instead of being ‘administrated’ and deported – these are the project’s main motives. As part of this effort, a design manufacture for sustainable products was set up in a former factory along the Spree river in Berlin, where refugees were given the opportunity to learn and experiment collectively, drawing on their own biography, and taking Enzo Mari’s famous ‘DIY’ furniture program ‘Autoprogettazione’ as a starting point for a first collection. Mari's collection dates from 1974 and marked a milestone in contemporary design history, positioning itself in contrast to the formalism of the time, and creating a provoking democratic alternative to the capitalist paradigm of mass consumption. The association also offers an educational program, including German language classes, legal advice and additional support to refugees that are still under threat of expulsion. (mb).