Future Observatory Residency Open Call

Design Researchers in Residence 2023/24: Open Call

Applications are now open for Design Researchers in Residence: Solar.

2023/24 Theme: Solar

Deadline: 11 September 2023

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

At times we design in collaboration with the sun: large windows are oriented towards its daily trajectory to passively heat homes. Other times we design to keep it out: awnings, sleeves and tinted lenses all create barriers to cool and protect from solar rays. Clothing, buildings and other objects are often designed to create climates of comfort for the human body, in response to the heat and light emanating from the sun.

Yet, as our climates change, so must our relationships to the sun. Earlier this summer, the Met Office announced that the UK had the hottest June since records began. This July has seen a brutal heatwave take lives in southern Europe, China has reported its hottest ever day and Canada is fighting its worst ever season of wildfires. In cities such as Los Angeles and London, public provision of shade and cool spaces is becoming a civic concern.

Extreme heat is becoming commonplace and designers must respond accordingly. This rise in global temperatures has coincided with an exponential rise in energy produced with photovoltaic cells: solar power from sunlight, the most abundant source of energy on the planet. This welcome development, which is being applied at the scale of the phone charger, the vehicle and the municipal energy grid, is not without its complications.

Struggles over land co-opted for solar farms are erupting from California, USA, to Karnataka, India, making manifest the negotiations required to navigate both green transitions and climate justice. Biodiversity is also impacted by changing conditions of heat and light. Warming oceans cause coral bleaching and the loss of breeding grounds for marine species, while excessive artificial light, interrupting millennia of evolution to solar patterns, damages biodiversity via light pollution.

For the next cohort of Design Researchers in Residence, we are seeking research proposals that consider design for and against heat and light in the context of the climate emergency.

We invite applications from designers and researchers whose research touches on themes including (but not limited to) solar farms, urban heat islands, shade, light pollution, cool spaces, drying river beds, air conditioning, clothing for extreme weather, alternative solar technologies, building insulation, solarpunk graphics, heatwave infrastructure and forest fires.

We encourage applicants to interpret the brief as openly as possible.

Applications are open until Monday 11 September.

Design Researchers in Residence: Solar will run from September 2023 – June 2024.

The programme

Design Researchers in Residence is Future Observatory’s annual 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. Towards the end of the residency, the work of the four residents is presented in a free display at the Design Museum and in an accompanying print catalogue.

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.

Future Observatory

Future Observatory is a national programme for design research supporting the UK’s response to the climate crisis. It is coordinated by the Design Museum in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

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.

Design Researchers in Residence: Islands

A free display of design research responding to the climate crisis by this year's Researchers in Residence.

Background image by Felix Speller. Drawing: Sunglasses by Ross Lovegrove, courtesy of the Design Museum Collection.