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

Shirley Surya

Design used to be the be-all end-all till I realised how much the social, cultural, political, technological and economic have shaped the material, visual and built world, such that design’s value seems to lie in it being the means (a powerful one) to other ends.

I’m keen in exploring the interstices and intersections between the disciplines of art, film, design and architecture; design and human factors; theory and practice; histories and futures; the local and the global. I have wondered whether my stint at the RCA/V&A History of Design programme has granted me greater clarity or ambiguity in this attempt – perhaps both. Such tensions are present in my paper on mediating architecture in China through notions of autonomy, authorship and auteurism, as well as past and present speculations and observations on design.

Being part of Department 21 dialogues and organising ‘Designing the Design Process’ and ‘Reconsidering the Local and the Global’  has been an RCA highlight. I hope the contagious spirit of cross-disciplinary discourse and collaboration D21 had stirred in 2009 will live on – through roundtables or installations at the terrace, RCAfe, galleries, Jay Mews or other activated spaces in and around campus. For the ingenious (often) happens at the uncomfortable and humbling, yet illuminating, boundaries between mind sets, not within the provincial territory of one knowledge and skill base.

‘Designing the Design Process’ at D21 RCA SHOW 2011

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