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Design Researchers in Residence: Solar

A free display of new design research responding to the climate crisis.

Photography by ©Henry Mills for the Design Museum

From sundials to solar panels, baseball caps to brise-soleils, the design of our lives has long been shaped by the sun.

Solar brings together the work of the four 2023/24 Design Researchers in Residence. The projects featured in the display explore our changing relationships with the heat and light of the sun through multidisciplinary and collaborative work.

Their projects touch on the heat of the internet, the changing scents of plants, the architecture of the conservatory and the contested restoration of Scotland’s peatland bogs.

Olfactive Evolution, Eliza Collin 2024
Hot Data, April Barrett 2024
Suntrap, Jamie Gatty Irving 2024
Deep Breath, Freya Spencer-Wood 2024

The 2023/24 Design Researchers in Residence are April Barrett, Eliza Collin, Freya Spencer-Wood and Jamie Gatty Irving.

April Barrett: Hot Data

What happens to the heat generated by every send, search and swipe made on a phone or computer? Through her research, April brings her ethnographic methods to the design and digital culture space.

Hot Data traces the flow of personal data through internet infrastructure and into energy. April’s fieldwork at a data centre on the outskirts of Dublin investigates how waste heat is currently being redirected to local public buildings and leads her to speculate on the role of data centres as heat sources in the future. Her project explores the environmental impact of our digital experiences.

Eliza Collin: Olfactive Evolution

Increases in global temperatures are causing the scent of plants and flowers to change. When a flower’s scent changes, it can become unrecognisable to its pollinators which puts that flower at risk of extinction. Eliza’s practice spans disciplines and species, using design to build networks and interventions exploring varied and proactive futures.

Olfactive Evolution invites the viewer to dive into the science of scent and its instabilities in the context of the climate emergency. Following in-depth collaborations with scientists, perfumers, farmers and artists, Eliza’s display features a new piece of garden design for the Design Museum and speculations on the future of plant biology. Through the project, she uses smell as a gateway to sense changing environments and to bring us closer to species beyond the human.


Projected visual evolution of an Ipomopsis hybrid over the next 100 years and back again. Animation design by Alex Pannier.

Freya Spencer-Wood: Deep Breath

Peat bogs are vital resources in the fight against global heating; when in good health, these wet landscapes can absorb enormous  amounts of carbon dioxide. Through her interdisciplinary research practice, Freya brings a spatial expertise to questions of land ownership, ecological justice and individual identity of these overlooked landscapes.

Deep Breath takes visitors to the Flow Country in Northern Scotland to question how markers of identity can inform action around the peat bogs. Building on her background as an architect, and drawing from queer theory, the evocative science of “bog breathing” and the elusive myth of the Will-o’-the-Wisp, Freya’s research reveals how different forces come together in these contested landscapes at the heart of climate action today.

Jamie Gatty Irving: Suntrap

Can conservatory extensions reduce the environmental impact of existing homes? Jamie’s research explores the intersections of cultural, ecological and building systems.

Suntrap invites visitors to reimagine the British conservatory extension as a tool to passively reduce the cost and energy required to heat and cool our homes. Jamie shows how the solar potential of conservatories has been overlooked through an exploration of their history – from the greenhouse to double glazing – and new thermodynamic research. In this display, he invites us to step into a new design for retrofitting homes across the country, reinvigorating a misunderstood architecture for the green transition.

Design Researchers in Residence is Future Observatory’s programme for emerging design researchers hosted at the Design Museum. The residency supports thinkers and makers from different disciplinary backgrounds at the start of their careers to develop a new research project around a theme that responds to the climate crisis.

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Design Researchers in Residence 2023/24 SOLAR

A free display of new design research responding to the climate crisis.

Contaminating our Current Thinking

a conversation between Cher Potter and the Solar cohort

Hybridising Scentscapes

Design Researchers in Residence – 2023/24

April Barrett

Design Researcher in Residence 2023-24

Eliza Collin

Design Researcher in Residence 2023-24

Freya Spencer-Wood

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Jamie Gatty Irving

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