14 Projects for a Sustainable Future
Innovation in technology is crucial to the achievement of global sustainability. From a plastic vacuum-wrapped Cezanne fruit bowl to an eco-friendly approach to cremation, an electric toothbrush you can fix yourself, and a biodegradable woolly mammoth that teaches children about the carbon cycle, RCA graduates have created innovative solutions to a range of sustainability challenges.
We look at 14 works selected by Rebecca Lardeur, a member of the student-founded collaborate platform SustainLab and a graduate of Information Experience Design (IED), that champion sustainability from ShowRCA 2019.
- Moying Huang, MA Interior Design, Funeral Futures
Aiming to create an eco-friendly way of cremation, Moying Huang’s Funeral Futures naturalises the process of dealing with death. As well as allowing human remains to be made into jewellery or sculptures, Huang’s building would enable relatives to embed their loved one’s DNA into saplings, creating a living memorial while offsetting the carbon involved in the burial process.
- Chloé Rosetta Bell, MA Ceramics & Glass, Translating Nature
Working with two Michelin star restaurants, The Kitchen Table in Marylebone, and Sosban and The Old Butchers on the Isle of Anglesey, Chloé Rosetta Bell uses by-products – such as waste oyster shells from Porthilly Oyster Farm – to create ceramics and glazes, often inserting the shell itself to emphasise the relationship between the natural and the manmade.
- James ‘Milky’ Rushton, MA Contemporary Art Practice, Infracontrol: Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
James ‘Milky’ Rushton’s Infracontrol: Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is an ongoing research project that maps inaudible low-frequency sound (infrasound) levels within communities, exploring the potential for these sound waves to stimulate adverse reactions such as anxiety, nausea and fear within humans. Rushton’s work involves using seismic sensors to investigate whether infrasound created by buildings in urban environments could be a form of systemic societal control.
- Rosanna Dean, MA Painting, Untitled
How do the remnants of our lives hold clues to who we once were? Rosanna Dean uses materials including shells, cigarette butts, hair, bones and broken glass to examine our relationship to the discarded. By displaying these alongside 3D-printed sculptures she typifies as ‘future relics’ she presents them in new contexts, encouraging us to see waste as part of our past, present and future.
- Léa Dalissier, MA Print, Un Monde sans Ombres est un Monde sans Soleil (a Shadowless World is a World without a Sun)
Influenced by science fiction films, the New Weird movement and pop culture, Léa Dalissier’s work deals with the sixth era of mass extinction. Prioritising ecological awareness and socio-political activism, Dalissier is a proponent of what she terms ‘kind activism’, which seeks to bridge political and societal divides.
- Maisie Maris, MA Sculpture, Untitled
Dissolving the boundary between bodies and their environments, Maisie Maris examines how the two can be inseparable, linking human gestures and vulnerabilities with our impact in the world. She aims to create a ‘body geology’, exploring the ways in which humans can coexist with the landscape they’re situated in.
- Lisa Cruz, MA Animation, IRMA
Lisa Cruz’s animated short centres around the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in the run-up to Hurricane Irma, which hit the island in 2017. In the film, Cruz examines our relationship to the natural world, using her central character – a young girl who is excited to meet the hurricane – as a conduit to explore human attitudes to environmental events.
- Daisy Buckle, MA Information Experience Design, Natural Curiosity II: Nesting Instinct
Created to encourage people to interact with natural habitats, Daisy Buckle’s woven, wooden sculptures function as connections between rural places and their inhabitants. Using sustainable materials, the nests seek to start a dialogue about the ways in which we coexist with our environments.
- Qiuyi Chen, MA Visual Communication, Unfriendly still life
Referencing classical still-life paintings, Qiuyi Chen creates three-dimensional artworks that highlight our reliance on ecologically harmful single-use plastics. By encasing ripe fruits in vacuum-sealed plastic, then fixing them onto works such as Cezanne’s fruit bowls, Chen creates a conversation between natural decay, artistic process and sustainability.
- Tomi Laukkanen, MA Design Products, Worthy
Worthy explores the problem of electrical waste, one of the fastest-growing sources of waste in the world. After learning that the majority of products were discarded due to ignorance about how to repair them, Laukkanen designed a toothbrush, hair trimmer and shaver that could easily be fixed, focusing on the small, everyday objects that make up a large proportion of e-refuse.
- Fernanda Dobal, MA Global Innovation Design, Circular Species
Fernanda Dobal’s Circular Species is a toy that aims to teach children about the carbon cycle. Consumers will receive a biodegradable woolly mammoth toy and a packet of seeds, which they will bury/plant. After a while the seeds will sprout and the child can excavate the mammoth’s ‘skeleton’.
- Karlijn Sibbel, MA Innovation Design Engineering, ReMined
Working with Imperial College London, Kariljn Sibbel’s ReMined seeks to turn waste from mining the materials used in electronic devices into material that can be reused. To do this Sibbel proposes turning pyrite (fool’s gold) from tailings (the main source of acid drainage) into an abundant semiconducting material for renewable energy technologies and using low-energy processes to convert the fine particle waste into a compact material to be reused in mine recovery.
- Rui Xu, MA Textiles, FreshTag
FreshTag is what Rui Xu terms a ‘a dynamic, color based food monitoring system’, using a pH-sensitive ink to determine the freshness of food without the need for best-before labels. The system offers real-time feedback, as well as being efficient and sustainable.
- Beth Fisher, MA Architecture, 87 Decibels
Beth Fisher’s 87 Decibels observes the effect of noise pollution on Moray Firth Bottlenose Dolphin habitats, exploring how marine animals – many of whom have poor eyesight and have sophisticated acoustic methods of communications – are impacted by activities such as construction. Fisher also investigates how sea sponge cultivation as an alternative industry can help to absorb sound and help the dolphin population.
SustainLab is a collaborative platform for all RCA students to explore what sustainability is and how it can be progressed. It is a middle ground for ideas to be challenged, investigated, experimented, and shared.