Giovanni Dipilato (MA Design Products) and Leon Hapka (MA Information Experience Design) became our 2020 Pokémon Scholars.
The RCA presented (Un)finished, a showcase of work by 2020 MA Design Products graduates at the London Design Festival. The RCA-led team behind the Tyre Collective were announced as the national winner of the James Dyson Award, and Logitech continued their support of the RCA Grand Challenge – inspiring students to design for humans 180 years from now.
RCA Student’s Union celebrated Black History Month online with a programme curated by MA Curating Contemporary Art student, David Lisbon. The online exhibition Fantasies of Exhibition Road featured work by 2020 MA Visual Communication graduate Ping Mu. October also saw a number of prizes and collaborations for our community. MA Textiles student Ganit Goldstein was awarded the Re-FREAM EU Horizon 2020 Grant, while five RCA graduate projects were named as recipients of the 2020 Helen Hamlyn Design Awards.
November was a busy month for community, sustainability and global reach. We joined with Wandsworth Council to support three young artists in the borough, and a social enterprise co-founded by MA Architecture graduates worked with young people in Battersea to create a mural for Carney's Community centre. Recognising the RCA’s commitment to sustainable innovation, the Materials Science Research Centre was awarded a grant of £5.4m by UKRI to establish the Textiles Circularity Centre, while the School of Arts & Humanities was awarded funding by AHRC for researching sustainable practices. Students across the College were invited to join an arts-hackathon led by Serendipity Arts Foundation, India, and five new graduate start-ups with global footprints joined InnovationRCA.
The RCA Grand Challenge announced its theme for the 2020/21 academic year: Design for Safety. Another long-standing tradition was also honoured: our annual Christmas Fête adapted to Instagram to allow shoppers to browse gifts crafted by our students.
January and February saw our Work-in-progress Show take place as a digital platform for the first time in its history, allowing people from all over the world to engage with the next generation of artists and designers.
In March, the RCA was named the number one university for art and design globally for the seventh consecutive year – a phenomenal achievement in a month that also saw the College placed in the top 10 percent of universities for public and community engagement in England.
In April, the Design Age Institute launched The Design Age Directory – furthering its mission to support healthy ageing through design innovation.
The RCA’s Senior Management Team published its Draft Action Plan Towards Becoming an Anti-Racist Institution. May was also a month of collaboration. RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design announced a partnership with Invisible Creations® to improve the lives of older people, while the RCA at large collaborated with Imperial College Business School and industry partners to launch Wicked Acceleration Labs.
Our graduate show took centre stage with the launch of RCA2021 as a digital platform, complemented by satellite shows in physical settings. Showcasing the breadth of Art & Design innovation at the RCA, five out of the 24 finalists for the Mayor of London's Entrepreneur programme were RCA alumni and students. June also brought news that PhD Candidate Wayne Binitie’s immersive Polar Zero exhibition would run at Glasgow Science Centre during COP26.
In July, HRH The Prince of Wales’ and RCA Chancellor Sir Jony Ive launched the Terra Carta Design Lab, inviting the RCA community to address the climate crisis. Elsewhere, the Materials Science Research Centre successfully secured funding from EPSRC to drive sustainability in textiles.
Prizes, awards and exhibitions from our alumni community included:
- Siobhan Anderson, Hanson Cheng, Deepak Mallya and Hugo Richardson (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering) won the 2020 Mayor’s Entrepreneur Environment Award for The Tyre Collective.
- Sabrina Shah (MA Painting, 2020) was awarded the inaugural Castlegate Art Prize.
- Shawn Adams (MA Architecture, 2020) won the prestigious Architects' Journal Post-Graduate Student Prize, 2020.
- Sir David Adjaye (MA Architecture & Interiors, 1993) received the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal – one of the architecture world’s highest accolades.
- Frank Bowling OBE RA (MA Painting, 1962) was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to Art.
- Tenant of Culture (the artistic practice of Hendrickje Schimmel, MA Textiles, 2016) was the recipient of the 2020 Camden Art Centre Emerging Artist Prize with Frieze.
- 10 RCA alumni were nominated for the Beazley Designs of the Year awards, with the concurrent exhibition at the Design Museum curated by RCA graduate, Emily King (MA History of Design).
- Douglas Stuart (MA Fashion, 2000) won the Booker Prize for his debut novel Shuggie Bain.
- Emily Gillbanks, current MA Painting student, won The de Laszlo Foundation Prize at the Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition.
- 17 RCA artists were selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2021.
- Evan Ifekoya (MA Contemporary Art Practice) was shortlisted for the Turner Prize as a member of the collective Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S), while RCA tutors Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe were also shortlisted.
Appointments and Commemorations
The RCA was delighted to announce two new members of our Council: Sir Peter Bazalgette, who joins in 2022 as RCA Pro-Chancellor & Chair of Council; and Fields Wicker-Miurin OBE FKC who joins as Deputy Chair of Council and Chair of Planning & Resources Committee.
In academia, Dr Sarah Cheang was appointed to the School of Arts & Humanities as Head of Programme for V&A Museum/RCA History of Design (MA, MPhil, PhD); and Professor Gareth Loudon joined the School of Design as Head of Programme for Innovation Design Engineering and Global Innovation Design.
With great sadness, we also remember friends of the College we lost in the past year: Sir Terence Conran, Provost of the College from 2003–11, who passed in September 2020; and Virgil Abloh, fashion designer, artist and cultural titan, who passed in November 2021. We were honoured to have had Virgil join our community as a Visiting Professor and trust his creative legacy will continue to impact future generations.