A classroom game, which teaches children to confront the issues of cultural misunderstanding that can cause social conflict, has led to a University of Northampton student winning a very prestigious design competition organised by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).
Culture Tower is the brainchild of Antonia Lowe, who is in the final year of the BA (Hons) Interior Design course, and is an inclusive, collaborative game that lets children work together to construct a unique sculptural tower with question cards so they end up creating a visual cultural collage to help them understand the different cultures we have in our society.
Antonia won the Marketing Trust Award, which is part of the RSA Student Design Awards. The brief was called ‘Beyond Borders’ and students were tasked to design a way to promote engagement between people of diverse backgrounds in ways that recognise a difference, create connections and cultivate respect.
Antonia said: “The legacy of Culture Tower is to provide children with positive messages about cultural difference and diversity. The child becomes the conduit through which positive messages are transmitted to the home and wider community. The game aims to promote cultural understanding in the hope to change or influence the views of people who have never played the game.
“The brief itself stuck out to me as it is something very close to my heart as it asked to design a way to promote engagement between people of diverse background in ways that recognises difference, create connections and cultivate respect. The strap line for the game is ‘culture should not isolate or separate, it connects us through a celebration of difference.’
“I am very happy to have won the award, especially with a project that feels very special to me. Being selected to enter the competition was a wonderful opportunity and I felt very excited to be shortlisted, so to go on to win feels even more special.”
Peter Kokins, Programme Leader for Interior Design and Architectural Technology commented: “Congratulations to Antonia on a well-deserved win. The judging panel was extremely impressed by the standard of her work and Antonia as an individual – they commented in particular on her fantastic research process, user testing and the outstanding attention to detail she demonstrated in the interview. Overall, they said it was a ‘brilliant solution’ – and they loved the fact that Culture Tower is both educational and fun.
“This builds on our previous successes in the RSA competition as this was the second year we have had one of our students win. The RSA awards can be particularly challenging for Interior Design students as there are no typical interior design briefs on offer. Both Antonia and last year’s winner Raluca Babau, offered product related outcomes to the briefs showing the importance of being diverse in their thinking, as well as ability to reflect and critique design problems outside of their degree specialism.
“To win such a prestigious and international award is an occasion to be highly celebrated.”
Following on from Antonia’s success, two students from the BSc Product Design course also reached the shortlist for the RSA Student Design Awards.
Benjamin Ibrahim designed a wheelchair of the future, while Jianing Zhang was tasked with developing a business case for a new product made from disused office furniture that sees these items repurposed for a new life.
Steve McGonigal, Senior Lecturer in Product Design said: “This is excellent news for the students as being shortlisted is a very credible and marketable addition to their CVs. Having three students reach the shortlist stage and then have one a winner is a real accolade as there were over 900 entries last year. Well done to everyone involved.”