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IMDC Research Symposium

Transformation: arts <> cities <> mobility <> products <> services <> technology

The Intelligent Mobility Design Centre (IMDC) hosted their pioneering event cross-college symposium Transformation: arts, cities, mobility, products, services, technology on the 4 July 2019 at the RCA. The programme was divided into three sessions, each focused on one of the key topics: Transforming Cities and Society, Transforming Creativity and Practice and Transforming Mobility and Technology. The aim of the symposium was to facilitate debate and discussion on these themes at this crucial time in multiple disciplinary approach. It brought together a wide range of speakers and an audience from various fields of design, art, science and industry.

Dr Jiayu Wu, Senior Research Fellow at IMDC, introduced the event by saying that the team at IMDC felt there was a need to have discussions with researchers and experts from all sectors to identify exciting new approaches for current and future mobility issues. She hoped the symposium would facilitate such conversations as well as future collaborations. 

Professor Dale Harrow, chair of the IMDC, gave the opening talk in which he described the IMDC as a multidisciplinary research centre that brings together vehicle design, service design, engineering, experience design, architecture, product design, materials, graphics, visual communications, UX & UI and system design. He explained that in tackling the three main issues today: Energy, Environment and Emissions, we are seeing new vehicle typologies which bring different challenges, issues and problems and sometimes unintended consequences. He spoke about human centred design and how design must be taken to people, suggesting that we are at a point where, mobility is part of a grander project around city design and the development of the city. Inseparable from its environment, future mobility will change the relationship we have with our cities and suburbs, with our homes, work and play. How do we plan a city with this idea of flexible mobility, he questioned? He showed the projects that the IMDC had and has been developing including London Taxi, Emergency Ambulance, GATEway, Emotional Tech, Future Luxury and Joyful Journey.

Here are highlights from the symposium: you can find the full talks and guest interviews in our archive videos and summary film – scroll through the video carousel at the top of this page.

  • Founder of MindRheo, Dr Melanie Flory’s presented Brains in the City: Neuroscience and Urban Design, during which she spoke of the impact the city, its architecture and traffic are having on our brains. Dr Flory stated that architects and urban planners have a big role to play in how to design in a way that does not cause stress. Designers, scientists, sociologists, artists and city dwellers should work together to develop innovative and multidisciplinary collaborations that address the quality of human life in symbiosis with ecosystems to design cities. 
  • Rebecca Heald, Tutor in Curatorial Practice at the RCA, presented on the curator’s role in shaping city spaces asks what art and artists can do for a city drawing on active curatorial experiences of working at Art on the Underground. Her projects raised questions about best practice, the changing nature of public space, sustainability, and why do these kinds of projects at all? 
  • Looking at nature to inform design, Senior Tutor of Intelligent Mobility at the RCA, Dr Chris Thorpe’s talk, Biophilia Futures suggested how biophilia could be applied in research terms. Will a more complete and profound understanding of the importance of nature to our wellbeing, support the evolution of biophilic design strategies along with related areas like biomimetics and circular economy – and in doing so lead to the development of holistic strategies for more healthy and sustainable urban environments. 
  • Pratap Bose, Head of Design at Tata Motors and an RCA alumnus, gave the presentation Connecting Aspirations through Design. As India is undergoing profound socio-economic changes the challenge is to balance the hopes and aspirations of the 1.3 billion inhabitants with the impact this has on the social and ecological balance in the country. With car ownership at 22 cars per 100 inhabitants, India will soon become the third largest automobile market in the world. Can this appetite for personal mobility be balanced with the environmental costs?

  • Research project lead of the IMDC, Dan Philips, talked about Car Free London, questioning how might design and art respond to London without vehicles. As imagined, future cities are not car free as they assume autonomous vehicles, and he asked if speed and independent mobility are the answer to a good life in our future cities. He presented his recent project, Slow London, which will ask Londoners to reimagine how we use the city, how we move through the city and how art and design might help to create a more inclusive, vibrant and resilient place. He is calling for partners and sponsors from relevant sectors to help initiate the project. 

Archive Videos

Session 1: Transforming Cities and Society

Session 2: Transforming Creativity and Practice

Session 3: Transforming Mobility and Technology