Makerversity marks ten years of forward-thinking design with an exhibition at Somerset House

‘Makerversity: designing for the real world’ is at Somerset House, London, until 4 February 2024, celebrating ten years of the design incubator

Makerversity anniversary exhibition
(Image credit: courtesy of El Warcha)

Makerversity is celebrating ten years as a Somerset House resident with an exhibition showcasing its latest projects at the London gallery. Curated by co-founder Paul Smyth, 'Makerversity: designing for the real world' (until 4 February 2024) exhibits engineering and design innovations from the studio, featuring award-winning successes, ongoing research, and a diverse collection of creative voices. 

Featuring work reaching from Afro-revivalist furniture by Richard Aina, to fabrics grown using bacteria from kombucha tea by group Modern Synthesis, the current collection of projects is both aspirational and socially conscious – reflecting the ethos of the studio at large. 

Makerversity: ten years of aspirational and socially conscious design

Makerversity anniversary exhibition

Makerversity lab at Somerset House

(Image credit: James Moyle)

Makerversity was founded in 2013, with a foundational belief in democratising creativity. Smyth maintains that the design world could be introduced to a plethora of new creatives and ideas if the hurdles that stunt early projects could be removed. Building off early inspirations, like educator and designer Victor Papanek, the community formed at Makerversity encourages a pursuit of utility in all its work; hoping to solve social and ecological problems with each new idea. However, despite the grand scale of its designers’ ambitions, accessibility is at the forefront of the studio’s practice.

Makerversity anniversary exhibition

(Image credit: courtesy of The Tyre Collective)

The anniversary exhibition captures a buoyant playfulness in the early stages of design, showcasing how various works begin with humble prototypes before scaling up, and how exceptional ideas can come from unexpected places. Take the ‘Polyfloss Machine’, a recycling device, used to spin waste materials into usable plastics through a process reminiscent of carnival candy-floss makers. Likewise, The Tyre Collective has designed a module to attach behind car wheels to collect tyre debris, the cause of 50 per cent of all micro-plastic pollution in Europe, through static electricity. The idea was born from watching rubber particles stick to balloons once they were charged with electrostatic.

Makerversity anniversary exhibition

(Image credit: courtesy of Amphico)

Other standout projects are by Amphico, designers of a waterproof, recyclable and breathable fabric developed from founder Jun Kamei’s prototype of a 3D-printed underwater lung. Inspired by water-diving insects and Kamei’s personal experience of a Japanese tsunami, the material extracts oxygen from surrounding water, making it ideal for sporting garments. Eventually, he believes it may even allow humans to breathe underwater. 

Makerversity anniversary exhibition

(Image credit: courtesy of El Warcha)

Meanwhile, low-tech but no less revolutionary, design collective El Warcha has its own space at the show, promoting hands-on education and civic action through the creation of temporary furniture. Visually striking, the many chairs, shelving and tables on display are comprised of various broomsticks and wooden planks bound together using plastic cable ties, demonstrating how creativity and making can be grasped by everyone with simple materials.

The Makerversity anniversary show is a marvellous example of community-driven design, and a straightforward display of creative ambition. Boasting an elegant philosophy, inspired projects, and a laudable catalogue of fresh ideas, it’s sure to attract those excited by innovative work and forward-thinking engineering.

'Makerversity: designing for the real world' is on view until 4 February 2024

Somerset House
London WC2R 1LA

Makerversity anniversary exhibition

(Image credit: courtesy of Enayball)

Jasper Spires is a contributor to Wallpaper*, writing features exploring modern art and design practices. Having worked for FAD Magazine and a number of leading publications in contemporary culture, he has covered the arts in London and Paris, and regularly interviews curators and creators across Europe. He has also written features on fashion and poetry.