Introducing AcrossRCA: Seeing Things

Please see the updated schedule for the week

AcrossRCA is a week-long programme of cross-disciplinary working at the RCA, bringing together students and staff with different expertise, interests and perspectives to collaborate on a wide range of briefs set both internally and by external partner organisations.

This year, from 28 October to 1 November, the SusLab team are running an AcrossRCA project, Seeing Things. This builds on the ‘energy visualisation’ theme of SusLab to challenge students – potentially from diverse RCA programmes including design, architecture, communications, fine art, materials and humanities – to explore visualising a broader range of hidden patterns in everyday life, relating to either human behaviours or environmental conditions.

Nearer the time, we’ll be blogging about some more of the ideas behind Seeing Things, and other relevant projects, but in the meantime, here’s the project outline:

Seeing Things

Brief: Visualise invisible patterns relating to human behaviours or environmental conditions.

Number of people 12-20

Keywords: Visualisation, Sustainability / Environment, Human behaviours


Seeing Things has emerged from the SusLabNWE project, on which the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and SustainRCA are partnering with Imperial College London and the Institute for Sustainability.

SusLab focuses on domestic energy use and the social practices, behaviours or activities that result in that energy use. Energy is largely invisible and one of our interests on the project is in visualising and communicating these invisible patterns.

In Seeing Things we would like you to think more broadly about visualising invisible patterns, relating to either human behaviours or environmental conditions. Through the project you will have access to a range of sensing technologies, as well as insights that have emerged from our interviews and co-design workshops with a diverse range of householders over the summer as part of SusLab. You can therefore generate your own data about energy use or human behaviours, or can use other source material (SusLab’s or your own) as your subject matter.


This is a full week project, but you are free to arrange your time how you like on the Wednesday and Thursday. There’s no ‘homework’ as such. You are free to form your own groups with people you’d like to work with, up to a maximum of four people per group, or work on your own if you prefer. We’ll be around to help and provide mentoring, but it will be up to you to decide what you want to do.

Depending on your background, interests and expertise — and those of the people you choose to work with — your projects could be very different, potentially involving anything from automatically generated data visualisations to hand-made installations. So the equipment you might need will vary. We have a project website for SusLab — — which will be updated during August and September to include more details of Seeing Things.

The projects you create will be presented to invited guests from the design, built environment and sustainability sectors on the Friday, and there will be further opportunities for them to be installed and exhibited in the Institute for Sustainability’s SusLab ‘Living Lab’ house early in 2014.


Monday 28 October

9am Introduction

SusLab background including insights gathered on human behaviours and energy use (Phase 1), results from co-creation and next steps for the project

Seeing Things presentation — case studies of other projects about ‘visualising the invisible’

10.30 Break

11am          Brief and Teams

Brief: Visualise invisible patterns relating to human behaviours or environmental conditions.

Spend time talking to other students about your interest in the subject and form teams of up to four people. You can also work on your own.

1pm Lunch break

2pm Presentations from guest speakers (tbc).

Speakers will address projects on visualising the invisible, human behaviours and energy use.

5pm End

Tuesday 29 October

9am Introduction to sensing

Introduction to the data and sensing equipment that will be available to use. Opportunity for students to try out different technologies and look at data produced.

1pm Lunch break

2pm Teams begin project work

5pm End

Wednesday 30 October

All day Teams work on projects at College

with mentoring from HHCD and SustainRCA

Thursday 31 October

All day Teams work on projects at College

Friday 1 November

9am Teams finish projects at College and install in [space tbc]

3pm Project presentations from teams in [space tbc]

5pm Reception with invited guests

Please visit the AcrossRCA blog for more details and to sign up (by 17 October).