Future Observatory Annual Programme

Design Researchers in Residence 2022/23: Islands

Delivered by the Design Museum's Future Observatory in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), this residency programme supports design researchers at the start of their careers to spend a year developing a new project in response to a theme.

2022/23 residents

Rhiarna Dhaliwal

Rhiarna Dhaliwal is a British-Indian architectural designer and educator whose work investigates global environmental and political systems that impact the future of landscapes and ecosystems. For her residency, Dhaliwal's research will be exploring the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining.

Marianna Janowicz

Marianna Janowicz is an architect, educator and writer with a particular interest in sites of reproductive and gendered labour. Her project will consider domestic practices such as laundry, and their relationship to public infrastructures and resource-use in the context of the climate crisis.

Isabel Lea

Isabel Lea is a creative director, graphic designer and researcher with an interest in sociolinguistics and forgotten climate knowledge. Lea's research will centre on untranslatable terms and expressions for land and weather phenomena used in the Gaelic language, considering their role in furthering climate action.

James Peplow Powell

James Peplow Powell is an architect with a specialism in sustainable and ecological design. His residency will focus on architectures that have emerged from specific relations between humans and non-human species on islands such as Tinos, Greece, or the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

2022-23 Theme: Islands

Responding to the theme of ‘Islands’, the 2022/2023 residents will develop projects that use the island as a lens to think through varying climate challenges.

Islands are defined by the connections formed at their edges: to seas and oceans, and the ecosystems that inhabit them; as well as to other islands, both nearby and further afield.

Rather than isolated units implied by an ‘island mentality’, they are better imagined as interdependent nodes in networks. This September, the first Islands Forum will bring representatives of island communities around the UK to Orkney, north-eastern Scotland, to discuss their common challenges in the age of the climate crisis. With over 6,000 separate islands making up the 'British Isles', the UK itself is better understood as a vast and diverse archipelago than any kind of singular nation.

Indeed, in an era of hyperconnectivity – when submarine cables run from Canada to Southport and from Japan to Cornwall, broadcasting messages and images from the entire planet – the idea of any insular landmass seems misplaced. Arguably it always has. The wealth of this ‘Small Island’ is inseparable from its former colonies; its historic investment in material extraction and fossil capital directly leading to the environmental catastrophes affecting island communities around the world today.

The 2022/23 cohort of Design Researchers in Residence will engage with the continuum of isolation and interconnectedness that is implied in the island, as an environmental, geographical and social construct.

The programme

Design Researchers in Residence is Future Observatory’s programme for design research into the climate crisis hosted at the Design Museum. The residency supports thinkers at the start of their careers to develop new research on environmental concerns and centred around a particular theme.

The residency has two main aims: to provide design researchers in the early stages of their careers time and space away from their regular environment to develop and produce new work, and to offer museum visitors an opportunity to engage with live design research projects.

Each year the residency accommodates four researchers, working in different design disciplines, to further develop their individual responses to the theme and brief. The programme culminates with a publication and final showcase at the Design Museum, due to open in June 2023. Each resident is provided with a commissioning budget of £6,000, which goes directly towards producing the work in the display. A bursary of £11,400 is also offered to support the development of their career and to fund their practice.

The Design Researchers in Residence programme builds upon the Design Museum’s Designers in Residence programme, which ran from 2007–2020. The revised residency programme, now in its second year, continues to provide emerging designers and researchers with time and space away from their regular environment to develop impactful new projects that contribute to design research into the climate crisis taking place across the country. The 2021/22 Design Researchers in Residence were Thomas Aquilina, Delfina Fantini van Ditmar, Samuel Iliffe and Sanne Visser, who responded to the theme of ‘Restore’.

The applications for this year's cohort closed in September 2022. The open call for the next cohort of Design Researchers in Residence will go live in summer 2023.

Related display

Design Researchers in Residence: Islands

Our four Design Researchers in Residence have responded to the theme of 'Islands' through a diverse selection of projects that cover architecture, interiors, graphics, multispecies design and engineering.

Future Observatory

Future Observatory is a national programme for design research supporting the UK’s response to the climate crisis. The programme is coordinated by and based at the Design Museum in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Future Observatory aims to accelerate how we find solutions to the most pressing issues. It brings design researchers together with the networks that can help them have an impact on achieving the UK’s environmental goals.

Supported by AHRC

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.

Design Researchers in Residence

Building on the principles, framework and legacy of the museum's distinguished education programme for emerging designers, this residency supports emerging design thinkers at the start of their careers to spend a year developing a new research project in response to a theme.

2021/22 Programme: Restore

Find out more about the previous year's display of design research responding to the climate crisis which took place in the Design Museum from 24 June to 25 September 2022.

Background image: Rising Sea Levels by Susan Wright; residents' portraits by Anselm Ebulue.