University of Southampton | Winchester School of Art
​​​​​​​Semester 1/2021
Design thinking is a methodological approach to manage and elucidate complex problems in a practical and creative manner by generating new opportunities.
Although the concept suggests the proximity to design, it developed from different fields like architecture, engineering, or business and is adaptable to various interests and goals. This report has the objective to show that the concept of the Design Thinking process can also be transmitted to a major artwork of the 20th century, the Wrapped Reichstag (1971-1995), conceived, planned, and realised by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
One of the most popular creators of large-scale public artworks died on May 31st, 2020 nearly twenty-four years after he and his wife wrapped one of the most symbolic monuments of German history: the Reichstag in Berlin (Needham, 2020). The author of this critical report decided to consider this project in the evaluation of the Design Thinking process because it is not only an artwork but because the concept of realisation has parallels to the development of a complex project in the field of design, architecture or business.
The critical evaluation of the Wrapped Reichstag as a product of a Design Thinking process starts with the focus on the theory.
Design Thinking is defined, and the important steps in its development are addressed, followed by the definition of the methodology of Design Thinking process.
The theory and methodology presented rely on the findings of the Hasso-Plattner-Institute, Potsdam.
In the second part of the Critical Evaluation, the author of this report introduces Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Reichstag project. There is a large number of published reports written in German and English describing the fantastic event and its planning. This paper, however, relies primarily on English secondary literature.
More than five million visitors from all over the world came to Germany in the summer of 1995 to admire the exceptional artwork of the two great artists.
Is the Wrapped Reichstag an artwork or a design product?
This question will be answered in the third part of the Critical Evaluation. However this report concludes with the reminder that due to the prescribes, structures and solution-oriented approach to the methodology, it cannot be excluded that the unique creativity of a designer is restricted.
This critical report demonstrates that a so-called artwork can also comply with the methodology used in the realisation of a design project.
After introducing the theoretical and methodological aspects of Design Thinking and the Design Thinking process the author of this report presents Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Reichstag project.
However, are Christo and Jeanne-Claude artists or designers? This was one of the questions to be answered. After reading and analysing various secondary sources, it can be concluded that both were very talented artists. They „only“ developed an idea and then delegate it to experts for its realisation. This means that the second question formulated in the introduction „Is the Wrapped Reichstag an artwork or a design product?“ can be answered with „Yes, the Wrapped Reichstag is a design product“ because its realisation is in accordance with the Design Thinking process and it was realised by a team of experts all working together, the second aspect complying with the Design Thinking theory.
The last part of this report, the Critical Evaluation, calls attention to the fact that innovations do not necessarily mean improvement.
In the end, it is worth stressing that individual inspiration and creativity should not be abandoned in favour of a lean, structured, and cost-effective creative process.
RESOURCES (excerpt)
Needham, A., 2020. Christo, artist who wrapped the Reichstag, dies aged 84. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 17.04.2021].
Hasso-Plattner-Institut, n.d. a. First Design Thinking Study Proves Successful Application in Companies. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 18.04.2021].
Hasso-Plattner-Institut, n.d. b. The six phases of the Design Thinking process. [Online] Available at: design-thinking-process.html [Accessed 18.04.2021].
Hasso-Plattner-Institut, n.d. c. What is Design Thinking?. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 18.04.2021].
© Chiara C. Witte/ University of Southampton. All rights reserved.