RCA students set up crisis shop for Milan fair

Product design students from the Royal College of Art will be presenting their responses to the theme of ‘crisis’ at this year’s Milan furniture fair.

The 14 postgraduate students from the Platform 10 teaching unit, led by Daniel Charny and Roberto Feo, were asked to produce retail pieces for exhibition in response to what Charny describes as a ‘very open’ brief to look at strategies for coping with crisis.

The resulting works are to be displayed in a makeshift ‘crisis shop’ at the Seves Glassblock showroom from 22-26 April, in the Crisis Shop Sold Out exhibition.

Charny says, ‘The students were not asked to solve a crisis, but to use it as an inspiration.’ The exhibition is the latest in Platform 10’s series of annual shows, which always have a unifying theme. Charny explains this year’s theme responds to a very contemporary mood.

‘Obviously, it has to do with design in a financial crisis, and also with a certain crisis in design – designers are getting worried about creating unnecessary stuff,’ he says.

Such a wide brief, which has at its core the definition of design as the process of overcoming a problem, resulted in a huge number of responses. But Charny says there was an unexpected unity to them.

‘We were very surprised at how they all went very personal, and looked at an issue very close to them,’ he says. ‘However, by looking at the personal you can learn and apply that knowledge to the universal, and all the students were coming back to the same universal issues – use of resources, social situations and the political.’

One of the more outward-looking projects on display will be Florie Salnot’s Plastic Bottle Jewellery. This is an initiative, currently being developed in workshops by Salnot in partnership with charity Sandblast, to enable the exiled Saharwi population in Algeria to create jewellery from recycled plastic bottles. The project, says Salnot, will not only allow the refugees to recycle the bottles in their camps, but also to ‘express their culture and reaffirm their identity which has been threatened as a result of the conflict’.

Claire Ferreira’s Rush Bag deals with a much more everyday issue. She says, ‘I have been observing the daily crisis of looking for something in a bag. I struck upon the notion of turning it “upside-down” as a means of creating an opportunity out of the crisis.’ The resulting bag can be up-ended using a security handle to expose its contents.

George Fereday, meanwhile, decides to solve the equally commonplace problem of having a hole in your pocket through the Perpetual Crisis leather pocket. This ‘drastic response’, he says, involves cutting your shoe in half to create a new pocket. However, this causes a new problem – a lack of shoes. The result? Shoes and Socks – emergency shoes that are embroidered on to a pair of socks.

And Iain Howlett’s Neuma GX 5000 is an enticingly ergonomic and asymmetric object influenced by the aesthetics of power tools. But unlike traditional power tools, the functionality in this object is very hard to pin down. He says, ‘This is part of a project that involved creating objects which lack function but play on well-established design myths.

‘The GX 5000 seems to capture people’s attention and leave them asking the all-important point-of-sale question, “What does it do?”‘

Other projects at Crisis Shop sold out

• Lisa Johansson’s Bouncing Stool investigates the pros and cons of protecting children from risks

• Nic Rysenbry’s cup holder deals with the crisis of disposability

• Azusa Murakami’s Spirographic Camera and Drawings looks at the rotational motion of hurricanes

• Billur Turan’s Crisis Chocolate presents the consumer with terrible predictions about the future

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