RCA Design and Research Celebrated at London Design Festival 2018

London Design Festival 2018 provides a great opportunity to explore and experience innovative design and inspiring research from the Royal College of Art. As the RCA evolves into a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) focused postgraduate university, the city-wide celebration of design offers a chance to discover how students, researchers and alumni apply cross-disciplinary ways of working to create real-world impact. From solutions for sustainable living to the future of housing, retail and mobility, dynamic RCA design is being showcased throughout the capital, through interactive and thought-provoking installations, talks, open studios, workshops and exhibitions.

At Battersea Power Station, the College will publicly launch its two newest research centres with an exhibition Design <> Research. From 21–23 September the latest innovations of the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre and Burberry Material Futures Research Group will be on display. Visitors can meet the designers and researchers and see how RCA research is addressing future physical and digital challenges through applying art and design methods alongside fields in science, technology, engineering, medicine and maths.

Both research groups work across disciplines and apply radical thinking to highlight creative approaches to the UK’s Grand Challenges including: clean growth, the ageing society, artificial intelligence and future mobility. Spanning research in sustainable materials, future manufacturing, consumer experience and product interaction, the Burberry Material Futures Research Group combines design-led innovation with expertise from engineering and bio-science. The exhibition will disseminate insights from the Group’s scoping project, undertaken by experts who reviewed current developments across different topics in the themes Sustainable Future Materials, Sustainable Future Manufacturing and Sustainable Future Consumer Experience.

The Intelligent Mobility Design Centre places human needs, aspirations, fears and hopes at the core of mobility solutions within a complex and changing urban and global environment. The research addresses the complexity of the infrastructure and interactions that mobility in modern advanced societies entails by refocusing on the journey, the experience and the design of services and systems. Highlights in the exhibition include projects with Hyundai-Kia exploring the future of luxury and the relationship between technology and emotions, and GATEway, a UK Government-funded project that investigated design’s role in driverless futures.

From 15–23 September at Paddington Central three thought-provoking installations from students in the School of Architecture explore the future of residential, retail and lobby space. Presented on giant light cubes under Bishop’s Bridge, the Retail of the Future installation explores how emerging technology will affect retail spaces and drive shifts in politics, economics and human behaviour; The Residential Build of the Future installation presents plans for an interlocking one-bedroom maisonette which experiments with new and varied apartment types complementing communal spaces for eating and working; and an amorphous 3D cloud structure creates moments of privacy within the lobby space and offers engaging insights into how art and cultural content change perceptions of The Future of Lobby Spaces.

At the RCA in Kensington from 20–23 September work from research students who are part of the AHRC-funded Centre for Doctoral training in Design Research Study (LDoc) will be on display. From smart materials to skateboarding, surveillance and speculative design, the LDoc showcase embraces design research and innovation through an exhibition, a series of panel talks and open forums. 

Some of the boldest and most innovative projects across LDF have been created by alumni of the RCA. Known for their playful approach to typefaces Kellenberger–White, the creative partnership of Eva Kellenberger and Sebastian White, which began while the duo studied at the RCA, has designed a new series of alphabet chairs which will be installed at Finsbury Avenue Square, Broadgate. Visitors are encouraged to explore, interact and make words with the letters, which are the result of an experiment in folding metal.

Biodesign HereNow is an opportunity to learn about biodesign and the future of new materials, manufacturing, architecture and fashion, curated by RCA Innovation Design Engineering alumna Helene Steiner and featuring Information Experience Design graduates. The exhibition takes place in Open Cell, a shipping container village in Shepherd's Bush from 19–23 September.

From 20–23 September a thread is only a line at New River Studios, Harringay Warehouse District, brings together a group of 14 international artists who are all graduates of MA Textiles at the RCA. Each artist challenges the limits of their chosen medium by going beyond the traditional applications to explore contemporary of textiles. From 15–23 September, Paste at the Department Store, in Brixton is an exhibition of decorative and functional ceramic forms and a site-specific piece by recent Ceramics & Glass graduate Christopher Riggio.

Other projects featuring RCA alumni at LDF include:

  • Head Above Water by Steuart Padwick, a nine-metre-high sculpture on Queen’s Stone jetty on London’s South Bank, that acts as a symbol of hope, bravery, compassion, positivity and change for those who have come through or are still confronting mental health issues, and the people who support them. On 21 September there will be a panel discussion chaired by Director of the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Rama Gheerawo.
  • Electronic musician, designer and Design Products alumni Yuri Suzuki, will be cutting records and introducing his latest innovations in the realms of sound at Electroanalogue by Tom Dixon at the Coal Office, the brand’s HQ in King’s Cross.
  • Designer and artist Morag Myerscough will transform pedestrian crossings on Borough High Street with intricate bold geometric patterns developed using details from the surrounding architecture. Myerscough is also running a workshop on 15 September offering participants the opportunity to gain insights into the process behind her design.
  • Architecture alumna Joyce Wang, founder of Joyce Wang Studio (London & Hong Kong) is launching her new collection, Flint, at her London studio with a 'travelling terrazzo' ice-cream cart.
  • Assemble’s Sugarhouse Studios in Bermondsey is open to the public 21-22 September. Sugarhouse was conceived by Turner prize winning collective Assemble, which includes among its number several RCA Architecture graduates, to provide workspace around a core of common facilities that enable and support co-working and collaboration.
  • 100% Futures at 100% Design exposes the most cutting-edge designs and innovations under the theme ‘designing for cities’. The exhibition features alumni and Pentagram partner Jon Marshall and founder of Thomas.Matthews Sophie Thomas, as well as alumni projects Cup Club – a system for reusable coffee cups and Velopresso – an innovative pedal-powered coffee tricycle.
  • At the V&A, the official London Design Festival hub, RCA alumni Michael Anastassiades is showcasing A Fountain for London – a prototype for a new drinking water fountain that is part of an initiative to reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles reviving the drinking fountain culture that has largely disappeared from the city’s public spaces.
  • The V&A is also hosting the Global Design Forum from 15-23 September. This series of panel talks features many RCA alumni, including: Marina Willer discussing her professional journey to date and Anthony Burrill on a panel discussing graphics, politics and protest; Design Products graduate Alex Hulme on a panel discussing the next generation of user experience design and Information Experience Design (IED) graduate Lucy Hardcastle on designing for the senses; Architecture alumni and Tutor Finn Williams joins a panel on the future of social housing and Honourable Fellow David Kester and alumni Sophie Thomas both feature on a panel discussing how design can help tackle single use plastics.
  • Digital Design Weekend takes place during LDF at the V&A on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 September. The event features future-facing design provocations and presentations exploring topics such as the real-world impacts of AI and algorithmic biases and human-machine interactions by IED graduates and Tutors, Design Products staff and researchers and Design Interactions alumni. There will also be the opportunity to learn how to make the My Naturewatch Camera a collaborative design research project between Design Products at the RCA and the Interac-tion Research Studio at Goldsmiths University, supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 


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