Meet the Design Museum's new Design Researchers in Residence

The multidisciplinary cohort for this year's Design Researchers in Residence includes April Barrett, Eliza Collin, Jamie Irving and Freya Spencer-Wood, who will explore the theme of ‘Solar’

Design Museum Design Researchers in residence
(Image credit: Justine Trickett)

The Design Museum has announced the new cohort of Design Researchers in Residence who will spend the next year at the London institution to work on projects that respond to the climate emergency. The programme is a new development of the museum's Designers in Residence, which ran between 2007-2020, and was established to support emerging design thinkers working in response to the climate emergency. 

Designed to support emerging design thinkers, the initiative is part of the Design Museum’s Future Observatory, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

'Welcoming a new group of Design Researchers in Residence is always an exciting moment because you know to expect nine months of unconventional thinking and challenges to design as a practice,' says Justin McGuirk, Director of Future Observatory at the Design Museum.

Meet the Design Museum's Design Researchers in Residence

The 2023/24 Design Researchers in Residence are April Barrett, Eliza Collin, Jamie Irving and Freya Spencer-Wood, a cohort representing a variety of design specialisms. During their residencies, they will explore the theme of 'Solar' through a broad range of themes including the housing retrofit agenda, how the scent of plants is changing under environmental stress, peatland restoration, and waste heat produced by data centres.

The end of the programme will be marked by a publication and public display at the Design Museum, planned for June 2024, where the researchers will be able to display their processes. 

'A rapidly heating planet means we have to redesign our relationships with heat and light, and how we make precious use of the energy associated with them, comments George Kafka, Future Observatory Curator. 'Whether thinking through architecture and community infrastructure for domestic heating, or the impact of warming atmospheres on carbon sinks and plant life, this is a timely moment to research and reframe the role of the solar in our lives.'

April Barrett

Design Museum Design Researchers in Residence

(Image credit: Justine Trickett)

Hailing from Canada, April Barrett has a background in the video game industry. among her most recent research topics (which she developed during the Design for Change MA program at the University of Edinburgh) were data centres, the facilities that house the computing infrastructure organisations need to store and process data. Her research led her to specifically look into 'the colonial nature of data centre expansion in Scotland and the tensions that arise when communities have their own visions for land use.'

For her residency, Barrett will carry on her research focusing on 'the potentially damaging impact of data centres on the energy supplies available to local communities.' Such centres, she observes, 'often compete with neighbouring towns for the vast amount of resources they require to function;' her research will explore how waste heat generated by data centres can be harnessed and redistributed, while also questioning the validity of Big Tech’s 'increasing entanglement with renewable energy futures.'


 Eliza Collin 

Design Museum Design Researchers in Residence

(Image credit: Justine Trickett)

A 2021 graduate from the Central Saint Martins' Material Futures MA, Eliza Collins research work focuses on 'building sustainable systems, with future perspectives relating to material, resources and the environment.' Collins has worked in on projects relating to water within the government design team Policy Lab, collaborated on a rainwater harvesting system for the BlueCity Rainwater Hackathon in Rotterdam and co-developed urban planning and non-human lead policy recommendations for the Gemene Grond residency, ‘Water is what we make it’, in Utrecht. Most recently, she developed a project titled 'Wet Zones' (developed with the support of Fondazione Studio Rizoma), which explored water usage and displacement in Sicily, also proposing community-led design solutions to facilitate the community's agency in water futures.

Through her residency, Collin plans to explore how the scent of plants has been changing as a result of the climate emergency, a project that continues her collaboration with agroecologist Dr Coline Jaworski. With her work, she will examine how this effect has been affecting local ecosystems. 'For example, changes in smell are having adverse effects on wild bees and their pollination, resulting in disruptions to food systems and increasingly oily molecules in the air which may contribute to the ferocity of wildfires.'

 Jamie Irving

Design Museum Design Researchers in Residence

(Image credit: Justine Trickett)

An architect, educator and co-founder of the design and research practice Entropic Group, Jamie Irving teaches Design Studio and Tectonics at Kingston School of Art and his collaborations include the Architectural Association, University of Cambridge and ETH Zurich. His work focuses on 'enhancing environments through an understanding and awareness of how cultural, ecological and building systems come together.'

The project he aims to carry out during his residency will look into the role of the sun 'within the retrofit agenda as a way of establishing a more dynamic relationship between the interior and the exterior.' His research will explore the potential of conservatories as insulative and heating spaces, underpinned by the idea that 'reducing energy consumption within housing offers opportunities for reimagining the relationship between our built environment and the climate.'

 Freya Spencer-Wood

Design Museum Design Researchers in Residence

(Image credit: Justine Trickett)

Freya Spencer-Wood is an interdisciplinary designer and researcher working on set design, land politics and queer identity. A 2019 graduate of TU Delft, she is Associate Lecturer at Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins, her previous experiences include the V&A design studio, We Made That, East and JA Projects, with whom she collaborated on a wide range of exhibition, public realm, community engagement, urban strategy and policy-making projects. 

Her Design Museum research will explore Scotland’s lack of sun, wet climate and peatland restoration, viewing is as 'an opportunity for impactful climate action and equitable land reform.' Recognising 'the inherent link between spatial and climate justice,' she will investigate bogs as queer spaces; often misunderstood, in-between landscapes, they become the starting point for a research into the potential of greater intersectionality in landscape policy, 'to expand engagement with the socio-spatial and political crisis of the climate emergency.'

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.