Design Museum opens exhibition on research in environmental design

London’s Design Museum has opened an exhibition showcasing research projects exploring the connection between design and environmental issues.

Six exhibitors present their works under the curation of the ‘Future Observatory’, a national research program of the museum on ecological change. The program is coordinated in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of the UK’s public research funding body, UK Research and Innovation. The exhibition aims to show “radical new approaches” in the areas of fashion, waste, materials and architecture.

On the second floor of the museum, the gallery provides space for innovative projects from across the UK that promote pioneering design research on environmental issues. The exhibits are intended to show visitors “stimulating and new ways in which designers are responding to the climate crisis.”

‘Future Observatory’ at the London Design Museum. Image: Felix Speller/Design Museum

The focus of the exhibition is less on design as a finished product or system, but rather on current research: The British biodesign agency Faber Futures shows how it cooperates with nature to minimize the impact of harmful production techniques on the environment. As part of her research, she works with Streptomyces coelicolor, a bacteria found in soil. It secretes a pigment that can be used to dye textiles.

The ‘Exploring Jacket’, a silk garment, showcases the remarkable results of this technique. Visitors can follow the creation process using a film that documents the jacket’s journey from bacterial cell to garment.

Design Museum Design Museum 'Future Observatory' display - Faber Futures
‘Future Observatory’ at the London Design Museum, Faber Futures. Image: Felix Speller/Design Museum

The ‘Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment’ is developing new low-carbon building materials and techniques to fundamentally rethink existing construction methods. The resulting ‘BioKnit’ from the project is a knitted biohybrid structure developed using computer modeling that extends precisely across the museum’s gallery.

‘BioKnit’ is made from mycelium, sawdust and 3D wool. As the mycelium feeds on the sawdust, its structure solidifies into a solid and durable material. Visitors can follow the development of this material and the construction of such constructs using drawings and films.

Design Museum 'Future Observatory' display - 10. The Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment
‘Future Observatory’ at the London Design Museum, The Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment. Image: Felix Speller/Design Museum

Furthermore, the research platform Climavore presents a mural made from shells that were collected in restaurants on the Scottish island of Isle of Skye and processed into sustainable material. A short film by architect and design researcher Julia King explores solutions to reduce the impact of water pollution on the North Kent coast. The Dark Matter Labs, with the FreeHouse project, propose a new approach to housing that considers the house not only as property, but also as a source of ecological and social values.

“This exhibition is significant as it creates a dedicated space for environmental and design research at the heart of the museum,” Justin McGuirk, director of the Future Observatory, said in a statement.

“In Future Observatory’s new exhibition we see critical, experimental and ultimately hopeful research in the UK,” said George Kafka, curator of Future Observatory. “The studios, laboratories and processes on display represent the leading exponents of design, from fashion to food. They work at levels ranging from microbial to systemic aspects. Through this exhibition, visitors will learn about the important role design research plays in shaping a future worth living.”

This article originally appeared on Translated and edited by Heide Halama.