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Barking Barges and the Mussel Conservation Center proposal


New design connects Londoners to the ocean

Some of the world’s best young designers have been busy working with Londoners to co-create proposals for building connections between the city’s communities and the ocean.

The students involved are part of the Royal College of Art’s (RCA) Grand Challenge: Ocean & Cities, the ‘biggest single-institution postgraduate design project in the world’, which this year supports RCA’s role as a UNESCO Ocean Decade Implementing Partner.

“This year, the Grand Challenge brought the 32 boroughs and the City of London closer to the ocean, using co-design and ocean science to support behaviour change at individual, collective and organisational levels,” said Professor Paul Anderson, Dean of the School of Design at the RCA. “Our designers partnered with communities and identified unique, place-based challenges to address to increase the city’s resilience to climate change impacts, from ocean literacy, flood preparedness, ecosystem destruction, multi-species perspectives, citizen science and more.”

The ‘speculative design proposals’ illustrate how, through a community-centred approach, relationships between citizens and nature can be reimagined, while also creating important new solutions, in areas including flood mitigation, sustainable packaging and the food industry.

Social dreaming

Oceans Committee of Enfield is one of the finalists. It is a platform for ‘social dreaming’, designed to ‘encourage communities to imagine more creative and empathetic climate change initiatives’. Another finalist, X-River, ‘aims to encourage citizens to become stewards of the water bodies around them’ through an ‘immersive experience which allows diverse groups to explore the biodiversity in urban water bodies and train as Riverfly monitors to collect data on water quality’. While Barking Barges and the Mussel Conservation Center, pictured above, is a proposal to ‘build a self-sufficient and sustainable network of reclaimed barges’ that can provide ‘versatile platforms to support recreational, conservational, communal, and agricultural spaces’.

Read about all the finalists – and find out how to get involved in the Ocean Decade.

A Grand Challenge exhibition of the shortlisted projects will be open to the public in The Hangar at the RCA Battersea campus, from 21-27 March 2024 (excluding 24 March). Three winning projects will be announced on 20 March, selected by a judging panel including representatives from DEFRA, NOC, UNESCO, and Wandsworth Council.


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Written By

Susan is the co-founder of Innovators Magazine and a consultant for OnePoint5Media. Susan is also a member of the UNFCCC-led Resilience Frontiers Nexus group and the Chair of the APOPO Foundation UK board.


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