A law court reconfigured as a TV studio and a bank account that helps you lose weight are among the projects by this year’s designers in residence at the Design Museum
A queue has formed in front of the ATM in the Design Museum, but nobody seems keen to use it first, so Patrick Stevenson-Keating steps forward to demonstrate. “You swipe your card and the screen displays your most recent purchases,” the designer says, as the words “ballet performance”, “rhinoplasty” and “six-pack of beer” flash up in large text above his head. “It would make me think twice before buying a KFC!”
The machine is part of his project for this year’s Designers in Residence exhibition. Now in its seventh year, the programme has launched the careers of designers such as Bethan Laura Wood, Giles Miller and Asif Khan. This year’s theme is “Disruption” and the four participants have applied it to the fields of housing, the law, play and, in the case of Stevenson-Keating, money.
“I was interested in how people interact with the physical objects of economics – ATMs, cash, credit cards, card readers,” says the designer, who runs the practice Studio PSK. Apart from the ATM of shame, Keating has designed a balloon that gives physical form to your spending habits by deflating as your bank balance does; a device with which you make payments one penny at a time by turning a dial, and a bank account that encourages weight-loss through a system of rewards.
Keating also proposes a system of “economic loading”, under which money changes value according to its location and the time of year, to allow governments to stimulate and dampen spending based on need. “It’s easy to think of our economic system as being passive, like air or water, but it has been meticulously designed and we are all active members,” he says. “I hope that, after visiting this show, people will ask, ‘Is this a system I want to be a part of? Is it working for me?'”
A less abstract effort is RCA graduate and Projects Office co-founder James Christian’s designs for high-density housing. He drew lessons from London’s pre-Victorian “rookeries” and the chaotic, cramped abodes around London Bridge in the seventeenth century to develop two hypothetical schemes, which he presents using models and a comic strip. “One is a co-operative self-build scheme and the other a combined living and working structure,” he says. “Both use unused space such as roof tops, under crofts and car parks in inner London housing.”
Designer and filmmaker Ilona Gaynor has presented a warning about how architecture and design can influence thinking – and therefore the outcomes of social encounters such as legal cases. “Through the introduction of cameras, live feeds and glass separating walls and observations made by members of the jury or audiences, court proceedings are becoming filtered, edited and reframed.”
Through scale models, scripts, paintings and video, she explores how legal constructs can be manipulated by how evidence is presented – as in the movies.
London-based Torsten Sherwood’s project, a redesign of Lego, has a more optimistic tone. His toy set, called Noook, comprising a single cardboard module can be used in countless configurations. In the Design Museum, he has shown how it can be used to build structures such as children’s dens and forts, but the system’s wider potential is evident. “It could be used as a partitioning system and maybe even have proper architectural applications if developed further.”
Images: Cat Garcia and Luke Hayes