Dr Laura Ferrarello
School of Design
MRes Design Pathway Leader
- MRes RCA: Design Pathway
Senior Tutor (Research)
Acting Head of MRes RCA
Dr Laura Ferrarello is Senior Tutor (Research), for the School of Design, MRes RCA Design Pathway Leader and Acting Head of the MRes RCA programme. Combining the architectural and design scale Laura investigates the social dynamics between digital and physical space/systems /interfaces, as generated by people’s experience of technology. This is pursued through engaged, experiential and participated design practice which outcomes are both strategies, objects and/or processes. Laura’s research interests include the role and impact of ethics, politics and economy in design and the influence they play on people’s behaviour and lifestyle.
Before joining the RCA Laura worked between architecture and design in a different range of projects. From 2011 to 2013 Laura was a leader designer at Atelier Manferdini in Venice, California. Projects included Tempera the MOCA pavilion for the Getty Center show “A New Sculpturism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California”; the Waves lamp exhibited at the 2012 Fiera del Mobile in Milan; Secret Gardens, a fashion collection exhibited at the A+D gallery in Los Angeles; Bianca, the 60 meters cruise boat in the lake Biwa, Japan; and the design of the monograph “Elena Manferdini: The Domain of Drawings” published by EqualBooks, South Korea. In 2006 she was one of the masterplan designers of the utopian city VEMA, theme of the 1st Padiglione Italiano curated by Professor Purini for the 10th Venice Architectural Biennale “Cities, Architecture and Society”, curated by Ricky Burdett. In 2008 she was the lead graphic designer of the 2008 Beijing Architectural Biennale “(Im)material Processes. New Digital Techniques in Architecture” curated by Neil Leach and Xu-Wei Guo. Laura has exhibited her work in Sci-Arc, Pacific Design Center, Wuho Gallery in Los Angeles, USA (2010- 2011), Politecnico di Bari Italy (2009/2014), Wroclaw, Gdynia, Poland (2013), Brighton, UK (2009), Ischia, Italy (2007), São Paulo (2004), and Camerino, Italy (2004).Show more
In 2010 Laura completed her PhD in Architectural Design at IUAV (Istituto Universitario Architettura Venezia) with a thesis that explored architecture and urban space as a strategy, and language, of political propaganda. The title of the thesis is “Geometria come Strumento di Invenzione. Il Concorso del Palazzo del Littorio dei Sette di ‘Quadrante’”. Laura holds an MA (Distinction) in Architectural and Urban Studies from the University of Brighton, and attended the MArch2 programme at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc) to develop advanced manufacturing skills. The undergraduate thesis in Architectural Design – “La Città della Musica nel Castello di Lombardia a Enna” – from the Università “La Sapienza” in Rome received the Rotary Award in 2007. In 2004 Laura was awarded the second prize at the 6th São Paulo Biennale, “Living the Cities” under professor Franco Purini's design studio.
Laura regularly presents research in national and international conferences as both participant and keynote speaker. She collaborates with other institutions across the nation and oversea; she develops her practice through commissioned and self-initiated projects and competitions; she reviews papers, articles and books.
Through research and practice Laura’s work focuses on the social relationships space and infrastructure develop through design and technology. Keeping the focus on the human scale Laura uses perfomative, experiential and collaborative techniques with the intent to raise awareness, and develop social agency towards technology, economics and politics. This is pursued by a process that operates both at the one-to-one and system scale. Workshops are enablers of this process; “Like Peckham Before Latte” (Royal College of Art, 2018), “Human Mediated Communication Mediated by Artificial Intelligence” (Fujitsu, 2017), “Imaginary Spatial Sounds” (Rice University Summer School, 2017), “Design Camouflage: The Fictional Presence of Time” (King’s College, 2017), “The Sound of Copenhagen” (Rice University Summer School, 2016), Metalondoners (Royal College of Art, 2015), Exquisite Spaces (Museum Next, 2015).Show more
At the RCA Laura works on Knowledge Exchange industrial projects. These include Fujitsu, Huawei, Absolut Vodka, Sonar +D, Science Museum and Lloyd’s Register Foundation.
Since 2014 Laura is working on a jewellery collection that investigates the development of digital/physical materiality from the perspective of people’s bodies and their perception of materiality. The collection is designed following a process that 3D scans objects and uses the imported digital texture as physical matter to mould.
The same enquire is also investigated through prints, paintings and 3D printing. On the topic Laura lead a research group – “Digital Impressionism”- which used environmental data, like sound and light, as material information to 3D model and 3D scan objects. The research has been widely published. Publications include SIGGRAPH (2016), ACADIA (2016) and DADA (2015).
Laura regularly collaborates with a number of external institutions and practices covering different roles and positions. She is part of the TECHNE commission and sits in the EVA Panel Committee. She will be chairing one of the LDoc conferences on ethics. Laura collaborated with Future City Catapult on a number of projects: a competition aiming at supporting bottom-up processes to develop urban policies (Planetary Urbanism); the promotion of the Horizon2020 project “Organic Cities”; a workshop and publication aiming at designing probes that engage citizens in the design of urban policies with Laboratorio para la Ciutat and Superflux (Newton Fund).Show more
Laura collaborates with former Helen Hamlyn Research Associate and London based practice Harry Dobbs Design on urban and planning design competitions. Between 2015 and 2016 Laura opened an online shop with Chinese 3D printing manufactory platform 3D Eazer.
In 2017 she organised and ran a workshop for the King’s College Department of English; in 2016 and 2017 she organised two workshops for the Rice University Summer School.
Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes
Laura regularly published articles, papers and book chapters.Show more
Ferrarello, L., 2017. The oxymoron of touch: Tactile perception of hybrid reality through material feedback. In edited S. Broadhurst, and S. Price (eds) Digital Bodies: Creativity and Technology in the Arts and Humanities, London, New York, Shanghai: Palgrave Macmillian,
Ferrarello, L., 2016. The Ecology of the Legible Urban Space, in Gomez- Mont, Gabriella (ed), The Pursuit of Legible Policies. Agency and Participation in the Complex Systems of the Contemporary Megalopolis, Mexico City: Buró Buró Oficina de proyectos culturales, S.C, pp. 73–81
Conference and Journal Papers
Hall, A., Ferrarello, L., Kann, M. and Pulley, R., 2017, September. Encouraging Creative Risk to Reduce Risk to Life. The Design Society.
Ferrarello, L., Kedia S., 2017. Limes. An Urban Design Platform for Responsive Behavior, in “Markoupoulou, A., Responsive Cities. Urbanism in the Experience Age, IAAC, Barcelona.
Ferrarello L., 2016. Hybrid Tectonic, in Velikov, K., Ahlquist, S., del Campo, M., Thün, G. 2016, (eds) “Posthuman Frontiers. Data Designers and Cognitive Machines”, Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, Taubman College, Architecture + Urban Planning, University of Michigan pp124
Ferrarello L., Walker K., 2016. The Form of Sound through Hybrid Materials, in SIGGRAPH 2016 ACM Digital Library
Anderson, P., Hall, A. and Ferrarello, L., 2018, Printed Publication, Foresight Review on Design for Safety, Lloyd’s Register Foundation, London
Hall, A., Ferrarello, L. and Kann, M., 2017. Safety Grand Challenge: Safe Ship Boarding and Thames Safest River 2030.
Corvin, T., Ferrarello, L. and Gu, H., 2017. Human Communication Mediated by Artificial Intelligence.
Articles and Essays
Davies, J., Ferrarello L., Forster, E., Heighes, C., Lees C., 2017. Environment of Translations, in King’s College (forthcoming)
Ferrarello, L., 2011. Back to Reality. Architecture in the World of Fantasy, in Ultima Thule: Journal of Architectural Imagination, Vol 1, No 1
Ferrarello, L., 2011. A Greenish Glow in Venice, in Compasses n.14
Ferrarello, L., 2010. The Emergent form of architecture. A conversation with Michael Weinstock, in Compasses n.24, pp. 144–147.
Ferrarello, L., 2009. iBus: Navigating the City through Buses, in DesignCETLD Newsletter.
Batach, C., Cancellieri, A., Console, A., Ferrarello, L., Lucchetti, G., Menegatti, F., Nencini, D., Sabuzi Giuliani, M., Satriano, F., 2007. Identità Enigmatiche, in F. Purini, D. Nencini (ed), Generazioni, Roma: Gangemi Editore, p. 291
Digital Impressionism, RCA Final Show, London
Luoghi di Incontro, Palazzo Ferrara, Bari, Italy
Aedo, Border Body, Academy of Art and Design, Wroclaw, Poland
Ricordare, BorderBody, Mixing Cities and Identities – Poland
Vucciria 2.0 Fatti Conoscere into a Cube, Catania, Italy
Take your own time, for Timeless, Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles
Modulated Displacement, for Emerging Professional, Long Beach City College
Peack and Poly , Spring Show, Sci-arc, Los Angeles
13.3 is an uncomfortable number in architecture, 13.3%, WUHO Space, Woodbury University
Veniceland, Fondazione Claudio Buziol, Venezia
iBus: navigating the city through buses, Sallis Benney, University of Brighton
Un Racconto exhibited in Come si fa una tesi di laurea, Politecnico University of Bari, group exhibition curated by Francesco Moschini
Awards and Grants
(2013) London International Creative Competition”. Award for the print “Vita Apparente”; Mention.
(2009), MA Thesis University of Brighton, “Fascism: The Theatre of the Masses”. “iBus Navigating the City”. Award for the quality of the MA theses; Distinction.
(2011) Continuing Student Scholarship. Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc), Los Angeles. Scholarship awarded to cover some of the tuition fee at Sci-Arc.
(2010) Merit Scholarship, Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles. Scholarship awarded to fully waive the Sci-Arc tuition fees.
(2010) Merit Scholarship, Regione Sicilia, Education Department, Palermo. Scholarship awarded for the MA Distinction.
Laura’s research approaches design as medium to produce
social impact through practice that stimulates collaboration/participation/engagement;
objects, methods or strategies constitute the framework used to enable the exploration of
issues and the identification of opportunities that design itself can support to tackle social
challenges. Laura’s interest concerns the facets design takes on under
people’s experiences and
how these connect with technology, politics and economy. The ethic and the responsibilities designers face in the decision-making process are aspects included in Laura’s participated design process.
Current and recent research
Design for Safety
Lloyd’s Register Foundation Design for Safety Foresight Review (2017–2018)
This research project aims at identifying how design can reduce risk across sectors at a strategic level. By tackling human behaviour and the interactions people engage with technology the Design for Safety Foresight Review intends to redefine how safety is assessed and planned by looking at the ecosystem that creates risks. To achieve so the team of researchers, which includes two Co-Chairs and three academics from the School of Design, engaged global experts across six sectors (Manufacturing, Transportation, National Infrastructure, Food, Healthcare and Consumer Products) through an online questionnaire and two symposia with the intention to design a network of expertise keen on sharing knowledge, skills and experience and collaborate on the identification of what design for safety is and how it can tackle future risks.
Lloyd’s Register Foundation Safety Grand Challenge (2016–2017)
This research project looks at developing a safer transfer between pilot vessels and ships, which are daily operated by port pilots around the world. The project engaged 36 students across the School of Design, Architecture, Fine Art, Humanities and Communication who worked in groups to foster innovative solutions looking at the transfer from multiple perspectives; this includes human behaviour, communication, manufacturing, new materials and wellness. As researchers and students, we worked together with experts from the RNLI Innovation Lab, UKMPA and PLA pilots, Royal Navy officers and IMPA representatives, who engaged in the teaching activities and reviews to help us and the students understand the context and identify which opportunities design could open. The research produced eight prototypes which have been exhibited at the Lloyd’s Register Foundation and at the IMPA headquarters in London, at the Lloyd’s Register Global Technology Centre in Southampton and RNLI College in Poole.
The Affordance of the Digital
Human Mediated Communication Mediated by Artificial Intelligence (2017)
This project explores which opportunities design can foster as mediator of human multimodal communication and conversational technology (chatbots and AI). Funded by Fujitsu the project focused on retail and banking. By looking at existent state of art technology the research outlined social trends in daily use of technology, key parameters that engage people with AI to achieve everyday tasks and interfaces that foster human-machine collaboration; these three aspects were used to elaborate future design directions for banking and retail mediated by chatbots and AI. The research ended with a co-design workshop where participants of different backgrounds brainstormed simulated real-life scenarios where an interface powered by AI collaborates with people. The workshop was an engaged and collaborative experience where participants themselves became an AI using multimodal communication.
Experience of technology (2014–Current)
This project analyses the experience of
digital technology as an integral part of people’s
everyday. Through experiential physical outcomes this
research aims at investigating which value technology can offer to people to
foster individual motivations and ambitions, and to engage participants in fully immersive experiences that enhance personal
identities and desires via imagination and wonder. This project uses experience
as a non-verbal communication that can support the development of new products and services by focusing
on people rather than technology.
The Materiality of the Digital (2013–Current)
This research investigates how new physical materials can be developed through combining digital and physical information, which is driven by human-machine collaboration. 3D scanned objects are used as gateways that link the physical and the digital via the object’s material (physical) and its texture (digital). The research uses both as vehicle to push the understanding of materiality, thus influencing the development of new materials.
Oxymoron in Design (2014–Current)
In literature the oxymoron is a 'figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction'. I use the concept of the oxymoron as a design methodology for 3D modelling to interface the human perception of materiality between the digital and physical reality. Humans have an embodied knowledge of physical materials, which comes from experience. Nonetheless the act of digital 3D modelling implements and changes such knowledge with something unexpected. A new materiality takes shape and it is (in)formed by the tectonic of the physical and digital altogether, i.e. oxymoron tectonics.
Engagement, Participation and Interdisciplinarity as Strategic Design Platforms
Space as Place for Social Engagement and Participation and 21st Century Citizen (2008 –Current)This research looks at people’s everyday life and its interwoven relationship with urban space, as mediator of economical political narratives shaped as buildings or infrastructures. The research explores the role and value of participation as a medium to influence policies and economical-political strategies to foster different models of citizenship via technology. To achieve so the research looks at the impact of current digital technology on urban infrastructure that puts citizens’ right to the city at stake because of the economical control of private global corporations, like Google/Airbnb, and a slow paced political-social innovation. Through workshops on public engagement that focus in particular on the degree of ownership people have of digital and physical space participants are asked to reflect on the economic, political and technologic dynamics experienced in the everyday with the objective of raising awareness and develop resilient bottom up strategies that give people urban agency.