What is ecological design thinking and how is it changing the way we think about our homes, communities and way of life? What can we learn from the leading designers and design thinking process? Can ecological design really be transformative – and what are the implications of a New Materialism for the way we live, work and play?

We're delighted to welcome a panel who are doing groundbreaking work in their fields:

  • Speaker/FacilitatorRuth Potts, Senior Lecturer in Ecological Design Thinking at Schumacher College. She is a co-founder of bread, print & roses, a collective engaged in seditious pamphleteering, radical walking, anarchist baking and transformative education and is a co-editor at Red Pepper magazine. Ruth initiated (with Gareth Evans) and was Artistic Advisor to Utopia 2016 a year of events, exhibitions and activity exploring the importance of utopia at Somerset House, London. She has designed and delivered publications, events and conferences for a range of organisations including Tipping Point and Caroline Lucas MP, and at the Southbank Centre and the ICA. Ruth is co-author of The New Materialism, covered by the Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times. Full bio here. Ruth will also be a speaker as well as our facilitator for this session, and will speak particularly about her New Materialism work and how this relates to housing. 
  • Andy Edwards Andy is co-founder and co-director of the design and architecture collective Transition by Design (T/D). T/D works in collaboration with organisations ranging from grassroots community groups to INGOs, and has a developed a strong partnership with environmental charity BioRegional. Previously Andy has worked with Architecture Sans Frontières UK and SEEDS India on projects exploring participatory design methodologies, natural building technologies, post disaster reconstruction, DRR and the application of reused materials in construction. Andy is also involved with a number of environmental and social justice movements and is continually seeking to balance design and architectural praxis with grassroots activism. Last year he was part of setting up the first Housing Co-op in Oxford in 17 years which now provides affordable, secure housing for its members. Andy will talk about T/D's design pedagogy which connects ecological design with value-led design, systems design thinking and strategic design theory, which we have come to term stage zero design. This might can draw on the development of T/D as an organisation and some of their projects to illustrate how this can manifest and the challenges this approach faces in a consumerist neoliberal society.

  • John Carter,  Pentan Architects. John Carter is a founding director of Cardiff-based Pentan Architects. Pentan was borne out of a South Wales-based Housing Association, over 20 years ago; and it has worked for affordable housing providers for all of its life. John currently divides his time between Pentan and teaching at CAT; and recently completed his own self-build Passivhaus in Somerset.

  • Anne Schiffer, Anne is a senior lecturer in the School of Art, Architecture and Design at Leeds Beckett University. She is interested in human-centred and interdisciplinary design processes that help create socially just futures. Her research and previous work experience is specifically concerned with local/global renewable energy transitions including their social, environmental, spatial, economic and policy dimensions. Anne holds a PhD from Queen’s University Belfast that critiques the role of designers in international development and has a focus on designing energy futures in The Gambia. Prior to joining Leeds Beckett University, she worked for Friends of the Earth Scotland. Here, she led the Scottish part of a European project designed to speed up the development of community owned renewable energy (www.communitypower.eu). She also volunteers on the board of Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland. Recent publications include:

Schiffer, A. (2016) Empowered, excited, or disenfranchised? Unveiling issues of energy access inequality and resource dependency in The Gambia. Energy Research & Social Science, 18 August, pp. 50-61.

Wu, B., Schiffer, A., and Burns, B. (2016) Power for the People: delivering decentralized, community-controlled renewable energy access. ActionAid USA, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Women’s Environment & Development Organization.