Studio BAD Design Award – University of Brighton

Guest blog by Roger Tyrrell.

‘There are cracks in Everything – that’s how the light gets in.’  Lyric by Leonard Cohen

As Darren and I travelled to Brighton by train, we reflected upon our contemporary world discussing politics, economics and ethics amongst other things. Given these ‘dark matter’ discussions, we each alighted perhaps with heavier baggage than when we each boarded that train.

We were in Brighton to judge the 2024 Studio BAD Design Awards, presented to final year Interior Design Students at the University of Brighton. It proved the ultimate antidote to our mood.

For students had been nominated for their work and we had the great opportunity to talk with three of them. We began with Mia who had designed a mindfulness retreat to enhance female mental health. She articulated beautifully the ambitions of her project and as the narrative unfolded it was clear how she had engaged not only with issues surrounding female mental health, but as importantly, how spatial design holds the potential to heal and provide hope. Of particular note was her focus upon materiality and the sensorial capacity that appropriate material choice holds to enrich our lives. Her drawings were beautiful; evocative, sophisticated images populated with textures and tones that truly reflected the ambitions of the project.

Next, we met Yen, an International Student from Malaysia who designed a project focused upon the needs of ‘new people’, individuals who had relocated and need to integrate into their new home. A place to ‘bloom’ as she explained. Her project was both thoughtful and thought provoking, a design that resonated in sensitivity and sophistication. As with Mia, her drawings exhibited a refinement, entirely appropriate to the project objectives.

Finally, we spoke with Diyanah who presented her project entitled ‘Tapping into the Devine Feminine’ – a woman’s centre located in Brighton. At every level, her design met the objectives of that powerful title. As a space of hope and healing her understanding of the circumstances of her clients was humbling and the design response was focused and inspiring.

Unfortunately we were unable to meet a forth candidate, Lara, who had been called-away for domestic reasons. However, even in her absence, her work resonated with maturity and sophistication. The ‘Hive’ is designed as a retreat for immigrants, it was thoughtful, sensitive and resonated with empathy.

Across each of these conversations our mood incrementally lifted. We left Brighton inspired, uplifted and with a huge sense of hope that the future is safe in the hands of these four young women. Each demonstrated the potential held by spatial design to hold social purpose, provide individual and collective betterment, and improve the world.

Mia, Yen, Diyanah and Lara, thank you. You reminded us of the innate power held by young people to challenge orthodoxies and accepted norms and articulate a socially responsible design paradigm for future generations.