24 June 2019
by Rachel Wingfield
This year we supported Sydney Design Festival in hosting UK-based designer Rachel Wingfield, co-founder of Loop.pH. She presented a lecture and collaborative workshop at the festival. Here she tells us about her experience during this opportunity:
In March 2019 I was honoured to visit Australia for the first time to deliver the Festival Keynote and run a public workshop for the Sydney Design Festival. The Sydney Design Festival is produced annually by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), a NSW Government funded cultural institution and has been running for over 20 years.
I operate from London as a designer of transformational experiences that explores the future of the city and urban life. I love the opportunity to visit new cities and found Sydney to be an incredible melting pot of cultures and mind-blowing food.
Not only was I honoured to be talking about a radical new role for design but also because the talk was scheduled to celebrate International Women's Day.
I am often invited to make the female quota at Architecture conferences and festivals whereas this time it felt like a real celebration of how women have contributed to design, architecture and engineering. I was able to look at my background in textiles with fresh eyes and touch on its heritage by recognising the work of Ada Lovelace who worked with Charles C Babbage over 200 years ago and founded the first binary computer based on jacquard weaving looms.
The aims of the festival resonate with the work in my studio, exploring the role of design in creating a more accessible, open and inclusive world. When travelling for talks I always love to share the work in a more practical and embodied way as the lecture format often gives a very one-dimensional perspective of the work. Therefore I was thrilled to be able to run a 3 hour hands-on workshop for over 50 people to mark the end of the festival.
As well as founding the London-based spatial laboratory Loop.pH, I’ve also spent the past decade working in design education sharing one of my passions; redefining and democratising design into a world-changing transdisciplinary practice. Together with my team we have developed a range of workshop tools and techniques that bring about collaborative working with new ways to hack and re-build our urban environment. One of these techniques is called Archilace and participants to the workshop were taught this advanced geometry that allows any surface or structure to be built and woven by hand using a number of flexible and strong composite fibres.
Participants worked together to build a huge architectural structure based on a number of biological rules around growth and structure. I have never worked with such a large group and over a short time that resulted in a large and complex structure.
My keynote talk shared work from the studio that uses this advanced geometric fabrication tool, I also shared my thoughts on what design is today. I see designers as agents of change the people who help shape the ways in which we experience the world around us. I believe designers to be some of the important spokespersons and agents for change in creating more resilient and sustainable futures. I’ve been exploring the idea and metaphor of ecological succession, whereby creatives (artists and designers) are seen as the gateway species within an ecology that make the ground more fertile for new ideas and for life to explode and flourish. My approach to urban placemaking is to catalyse change and inspire collective dreaming that leads to direct action. I presented five examples of participatory urban initiatives from the studio with Shelter to Food, Energy, Water & Health. One of the last and arguably most important topics I touched on was the use of restorative meditation practices within our environments to create transformational experiences. Restorative placemaking is a new approach to urban design and regeneration where placemaking, experience design, and immersive arts meet to deliver environments that restore, connect and nourish a community. I believe in creating nourishing spaces in the city that allow people to pause and connect with others in meaningful ways. I want to create opportunities for people to develop their emotional landscape, shifting beyond the self, into a state of interconnectedness and community wellness.
I’m currently working on a new business with Leo Cosendai called Third Ear that delivers sound meditation apps worldwide together with an entirely new type of meditation studio. I appreciated having the opportunity to share these new ideas with a forward thinking and engaged audience. Sydney certainly seems to be at the forefront of wellness and radical new approaches to design. I hope I have the opportunity to return.
Special thanks to Anne-Louise Dadak from MAAS for making our visit so welcoming and productive and to the British Council for supporting the trip.