Department 21 a student-led interdisciplinary department at the Royal College of Art

Planning the installation

On Friday 26 March Roberto Bottazzi (tutor in Architecture) and Finn Williams (2006 Architecture graduate) are going to hold a workshop with D21 students about the final show installation. We’re all looking forward to this!

In the internal courtyard (excerpt from the proposal to the college)

One of the reasons why Department 21 was successful is the fact that this multi-disciplinary studio was set up in a ‘neutralised’ space inside the RCA. None of the college’s departments ‘owned’ this space – which is something rare – and this very fact allowed the studio to host such a diversity of practices and such interesting conversations to develop freely and openly, without any of the constraints of a particular discipline or department.
An ideal space in which to build up the Department 21 installation in the Final Show would be, again, a neutral space which crosses the boundaries of the exhibition/ institutional space but which is still part of it. It would also be a space which would facilitate dialogue and which is in dialogue with the show and the RCA, exactly as the whole Department 21 initiative was conceived and carried out.
In this sense, we couldn’t think of a better space than one of the internal terraces facing the courtyard; a quiet – almost meditative space, which embodies many of the qualities which could be found in Department 21 – both on a physical and conceptual level. The structure should reflect the ‘beneficially parasitic’ nature of Department 21, in the sense that it grew from within the institution and lives both in and outside it in a constant positive exchange of dialogue.

The workshop was split into two parts. During the morning everyone worked with the floorplans of the different buildings of the college towards a model which would reflect on the position the Department 21 idea has in relation to the wider RCA structure. Departing from the different reflections, and from the discussions these triggered within the group, during the afternoon we focussed on the particularity of the show situation and on how the concepts embodied by Dept.21 could find a place in it via an installation in the internal courtyard. At the end of the session all the discussions were pointing towards a conceptually sound intervention which will be developed in detail over the next one and a half months in conversation with Roberto Bottazzi and Finn Williams.

In the daytime TV cookery show Ready Steady Cook celebrity chefs are presented with a bag of random ingredients bought for £5. They are given 20 minutes to create a meal, inventing recipes and titles for their dishes as they cook.
When architects start a job they are given a site, a brief, a client and a user. Their job is to draw up a plan that cuts and combines these elements into a compelling structure.
The chef and the architect make by re-organising – by ordering and amalgamating dissimilar parts to make an appetizing whole.
How does Department 21 re-organise practice within the RCA? And how could its physical presence in the final show reflect its collaborative and cross-disciplinary position?
In the morning we will model spatially how Department 21 relates to the other 20 departments of the RCA. And how these departments could be re-organised in the spirit of Department 21.
In the afternoon we will negotiate how attitudes to organisation could shape Department 21’s own position within the final show. And help locate the Department’s longer future as an interdisciplinary space in the college.
By the end of the day we will have a recipe for an installation that corresponds to Department 21’s own re-organising role within the RCA.


Most probably it was the very last time we invaded the former Painting studios, this time the 3rd floor – such a good space!

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