Constructing the future is frequently a case of looking at areas rather than isolated problems. Three researchers at the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre, the Royal College of Art’s research arm, collaborated on a project shown at ExCel recently under the banner Urban Mobility. Shaun Hutchinson, Helen Jones and Nick Rawcliffe approached the topic from widely differing perspectives, examining transport in the city using a timeline extending from 1980 to 2030.
They looked at four areas: technology; user behaviour; the urban context; and the domestic environment. Jones is clear about the benefits, ‘The College acts as a place where multidisciplinary teams can be brought together.’ For a subject as broad as the city, this is vital.
Rawcliffe has worked on a system mapping the journeys of transport users using smart card technology. This dovetails with Jones’ examination of urban social change in relation to transport and Hutchinson’s research pondering the future of the car in congested cities. Hutchinson proposes a public/ private automotive hybrid for city travel. The Urban Mobility project is the outcome of several starting points, all with a similar design end in sight, but with widely differing methods of getting there.
Something comparable can be seen in design group Atelier Works’ proposal for improved street and transport signage in urban areas. With a range of design solutions running from colour-coded roads guiding drivers around the city, to more significant use of London Underground’s dot-matrix signage, keeping tube travellers informed, this is a project that has scrutinised a broad topic from a holistic and consumer-based position. Atelier Works partner Quentin Newark says, ‘You use transport in an integrated way and you want the systems to help you. It’s a matter of taking various parts and being innovative across the whole range.’
Designing the future is often about teams harnessing disparate design disciplines and diverse competencies to arrive at a solution.