Design Researchers in Residence 2021/22: Restore

This programme for emerging design researchers is hosted at the Design Museum and is co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The residency supports design researchers at the start of their careers to spend a year developing a new research project in response to a theme.

2021-22 Theme: Restore

Climate change is the defining crisis of our time. As human impact continues to place pressure on our natural ecosystems and biodiversity, the future of our planet is uncertain. Deforestation, fossil fuels and intensive agriculture caused by unsustainable consumption has created food shortages, environmental degradation, and displacement across the globe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the structural frailties and inequalities that exist in our governance models and supply chains have been exposed. We must radically rethink the tools and systems needed to reduce consumption and protect our planet for all lifeforms now and in years to come.

As the museum's recent exhibition, 'Waste Age: What can design do?', demonstrated, design plays a crucial role in helping us navigate this landscape. Innovations in material culture, manufacturing and consumer experience are proposing new systemic ways of making and consuming that are more respectful to the environment. Moreover, designers today are demonstrating the value of transforming waste into new resources, to begin the transition to a circular economy.

The focus of this year’s Future Observatory, within which this residency sits, is net zero+: not only the reduction and/or offsetting of carbon emissions, but also circularising local and national economies, reducing waste, and embedding environmental sustainability at strategic, socio-technical and product/service innovation levels.

Through Future Observatory, a new collaborative programme between the Design Museum, the Arts and the Humanities Research Council, the museum is exploring how design can enable the UK to meet its environmental targets, whether on air and water pollution, carbon footprints and waste management or biodiversity. It advocates for solutions that help to deliver Net Zero by 2050, and that go beyond to protect our communities and restore our natural world now. How can we have an inclusive transition to a greener economy?

Meet the residents

Thomas Aquilina

Thomas is an architect who is investigating the relationship between spatial justice and the climate crisis in London.

Delfina Fantini van Ditmar

Delfina is a transdisciplinary designer and educator whose research explores how systems thinking can help designers produce more sustainable outcomes.

Samuel Iliffe

Samuel is a design engineer who is researching the use of algae to remove harmful pollutants from freshwater bodies.

Sanne Visser

Sanne is a maker and design researcher whose work looks at hair as both a local waste stream and material resource.

Supported by mentors within the learning and curatorial team at the Design Museum, as well as the Future Observatory leadership and wider AHRC networks, the design researchers will take part in an intensive 12-month programme of crits, panel discussions and symposia where their research will be discussed and disseminated via the Design Museum’s audiences and wider professional network.

The residency hosts international practitioners and researchers in the fields of architecture, design, and digital culture. Proposals are invited through an international open call and selected by a jury of renowned curators, academics, and leaders in the field of design research.

The researchers are supported with mentorship, studio space and a stipend, and their research will manifest through public events, an exhibition and a publication curated and edited by the Design Museum.

The programme is generously supported by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Idlewild Trust.

Arts and Humanities Research Council

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects from history and archaeology to philosophy and languages, design and effectiveness of digital content and the impact of artificial intelligence.

Idlewild Trust

Idlewild Trust is an independent grant-making trust that supports conservation and the arts, including programmes that address the lack of opportunities for musicians, dancers, actors, writers, artists, designers and those involved creatively in the arts at an early stage in their career.


Find out more about Restore, a free display featuring the work of Future Observatory's Design Researchers in Residence 2021/22 that took place in the Design Museum from 24 June to 25 September 2022.

Design Researchers in Residence portraits by Tailored Media. Background images by Felix Speller.