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Key details


  • 11 March 2022


  • RCA

Read time

  • 3 minutes

As the official Heritage Partner for the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Royal College of Art is pleased to announce Shaping Futures: Design-Led Innovation – a boundary-pushing exhibition combining art, design, fashion, digital and technical innovation. The exhibition will present future-focused design and digital art from RCA alumni over a two-day residency at the UK Pavilion, from 15 to 16 March.

Spanning multiple disciplines, the projects featured in Shaping Futures highlight why creativity, design ingenuity and innovation are essential to securing humanity’s future. The works are underpinned by four key concepts – Advance, Sustainability, Opportunity and Mobility – which reflect the UK’s theme for Expo 2020 Dubai of ‘Innovating for a Shared Future’.

The RCA's participation draws on the College's 170-year history of shared heritage with world exhibitions, dating back to the very first Expo, The Great Exhibition of 1851, conceived by Prince Albert and Sir Henry Cole (who guided the early days of the institution that would become the RCA). For Expo 2020 Dubai, the RCA artists and designers exhibiting work have their gaze firmly set on the future.

“By combining art and design disciplines with science and technology, RCA students, staff and alumni are the embodiment of the UK’s participation theme for Expo 2020 Dubai, ‘Innovating for a Shared Future’. From the environment to healthcare, these artworks, designs, products and services are a testament to the spirit of entrepreneurship, imagination and collaboration we champion and strive for at the RCA.”

Dr Paul Thompson Vice-Chancellor of the Royal College of Art

Discover more about the participating works and projects:


Bahareh Saboktakin, Spindle

Since the RCA’s inception in 1837, many students have explored visions of how future generations might live. From filmmaker Ridley Scott (who studied at the College in 1961) in his iconic film Blade Runner, to more recent graduates like microgravity garment designer Anna Talvi (MA Fashion: Menswear, 2018), RCA alumni are asking how can humans advance and adapt?

Also showcased is work by Marcela Baltarete (MA Fashion: Humanwear, 2020) who considers and questions their idea of gender, health and fitness through 3D rendered variations of themselves as enhanced, self-made and evolved digital beings.

Zongbo Jiang (MA Fashion: Digital, 2021) also engages with digital characters and spaces, exploring problems faced on our planet through the work Dilemmas for Earthlings with a view to opening up conversations about how we can improve our ways of living.

Advancing the area of textiles, Bahareh Saboktakin (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering, 2021) has developed Spindle – a desktop rapid prototyping tool that enables textile innovators to create nonwoven fabric.


Ganit Goldstein

Equal opportunity in health and medical provision, basic sanitation and food security are all themes explored by designers and artists who graduate from the RCA – many of whom go on to create their own innovative start-up companies with the support of InnovationRCA, the College’s centre for entrepreneurship and commercialisation.

LooWatt, an InnovationRCA start-up founded by Virginia Gardiner (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering, 2008), is showcased as part of the exhibition. A unique toilet system that integrates waterless flush technology with 360-degree waste processing, LooWatt provides safe sanitation in developing countries.

Elsewhere, Ganit Goldstein (MA Textiles: Soft Systems, 2021) explores the opportunity of 3D printing through her 3D smart textiles, suggesting new ways that smart textiles can act as a ‘bridge between tactile interactions and virtual sensations’.


Destabilised Common Grounds

The transition to net zero carbon is one of the biggest challenges humanity faces. This collection of work by RCA alumni illustrates how designers, artists and architects can play a central role in articulating this challenge and creating solutions.

With Destabilised Common Grounds, Nirit Binyamini Ben-Meir (MA Information Experience Design, 2021) invites a deep engagement with a community of moss colonies, provoking thoughts about the meaning of care and value particularly in relation to the biosphere.

Notpla, founded by Pierre Paslier and Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering, 2014), present sustainable packaging made from seaweed and plants, while ZELP, the Innovation RCA start-up founded by Francisco Norris (MA Information Experience Design, 2017), has designed a wearable device for livestock to neutralise methane emissions in real time.



Focusing on vehicles and mass transport systems for low carbon cities, the work of the RCA’s Intelligent Mobility Design Centre is leading research at the intersection of people, mobility and technology.

Visitors to the Shaping Futures exhibition will have the chance to see an iconic new British chargepoint for electric vehicles designed by the RCA and PA Consulting, which was unveiled by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP at COP26. Part of the UK government's pledge to reach zero emission for HGVs and end the sale of polluting road vehicles within the next two decades, the chargepoint was constructed with accessibility, inclusivity and user enjoyment in mind.

Elsewhere, Sharon Ramalingam (MA Intelligent Mobility, 2021) presents FORMA, a fully autonomous subscription service designed to solve congestion in the city of São Paulo. FORMA proposes a concept car that folds along its width when not in use, becoming flat without occupying space in the environment.

Heritage Partner for the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

Find out more about Shaping Futures: Design-Led Innovation at Expo 2020 Dubai.