What were you doing before you applied to study at the RCA?
I was in the USA. I have a BA in Architecture from Wellesley College and MIT. My degree was a four-year liberal arts degree so in addition to Architecture, I had the chance to study philosophy, history, art history, physics and maths. After graduating from the States, I wanted to be in an environment that was completely focused on design.
Why did you want to study at the RCA?
Speaking to Kevin Walker and seeing the projects coming out of Information Experience Design, it seemed that there was a lot of emphasis on logical thinking and design process, and that really interested me. The RCA has a great reputation, and I’d heard so much about it.
I wanted to study in London, because it felt like it was much more central to the design world than the USA, so I was keen to make that move. Being in Europe has given me so much access to conferences and symposia. Last year I took part in a research symposium with my tutor Laura Ferrarello; we wrote a paper and presented it in Barcelona, which was fantastic and I don’t think I could have done something like that based in the US.
How did you find starting out at the RCA?
When I first started on IED, I definitely felt a loss of structure. I slowly got used it, and I now know that this free approach really helps you figure out exactly what you want, rather than following a more structured programme where people give you very exact briefs. That was what I was used to, and I missed it at first. The freedom has helped me discover more about myself and my work.
What is the studio environment like at College?
There is a wide variety of work in progress in the studios – people work on diverse projects, ranging from animated films, to more research-based conceptual design, and that is a nice environment to be in. There are so many different perspectives and you’re never competing directly as a result of that, which is very healthy. The RCA is very open so you’re never stuck in one place; I’ve had help from everyone for my projects, not just in the studio but also in the Smart Zone, which is a space for digital training.
I’ve also been taking a computation workshop with the Architecture MRes students, learning how to use Grasshopper, which is a visual programming tool. During the class I designed a chair based on pendulum motion, and discovered I really enjoyed the process of furniture design and manufacture, as well as the computational design approach.
Are there any particular projects that have been particularly significant for you?
I have been interested in urban information systems since my time as an undergraduate, so the conference paper and the Platform, Limes, co-authored with Dr Laura Ferrarrello, is a very significant project for me. The platform allows us to represent environmental information in the form of colour, encapsulated in voxels, and simulate the information flows within an environment through the behaviour of voxels as cellular automata. We were lucky to present the paper and platform at the Responsive Urbanism symposium at IAAC, Barcelona in 2016.
The project I am currently working on with my tutor, Dr Helene Steiner, is also an urban simulation tool, and I am excited to see how this develops. There were some projects in first year that were really interesting, and even if they didn’t lead to long-term interests, they were valuable for helping me define the direction I wanted to head in.
Do you have a sense of how your work developed over the two years?
There are many subtle things that I don’t always notice, but when I look back at the work I did before and the work I do now, I can see a lot more attention to how I present my work in a show setting, or as a product. I can also see the impact of IED’s core approach which is to always ask: What, why and for who? You’re always critically questioning your work, and the degree of independence you have forces you to assess your work very strictly, which is a really good skill to have.
What have you found especially rewarding about studying at the RCA?
I definitely feel part of the community here, and everyone is always ready to help you. I don’t feel like I belong to one programme, but to the RCA as a whole. You’re never restricted to any particular discipline or output, and I’ve really enjoy that freedom.
"I wanted to study in London, because it felt like it was much more central to the design world than the USA"