The School of Speculation, or SOS, is a new independent design school aimed at pushing back at the rise of vocational, workplace-based training in universities. SOS aims to increaseintersectional diversity in design education as well as promoting the Arts as education bybringing together artists, students and designers at the bleeding edge of critical practice.

︎What is SOS?
︎What is Critical Design?
︎Who is SOS?
︎SOS Founders

What is SOS?

SOS is an independent and nomadic critical design school that aims to challenge current models of delivering higher education. Through partnerships between museums, galleries, libraries and other public institutions, SOS aims to build relationships between the diverse latent pedagogy in our cities to create a different kind of educational offer.

Universities today gravitate toward market-driven education, not only through the education as product model, but in their delivery of market-ready students. SOS disputes this approach. SOS is an alternative model of education afforded by its own institutional framework outside of the traditional university. SOS is workshops, speakers’ events, summer schools, writings, lectures and discussion, making and drawing, visualising and critiquing the status quo using critical design.

The Oxbridge Fibre Orbital (2018). Pierre Shaw.

SOS is an alignment of aims and objectives toward challenging today’s ways of doing things. We’ve found that the independence of the school environment from society is invaluable butin crisis. How can we prevent the crucial role of critique, nurtured for so long by the Arts, from disappearing in our schools?
[Mission Link]

To react against the consumerisation of higher education, SOS has had to develop adifferent understanding of school; it is a connection between spaces and cultural institutions,students and practitioners through discussion and making. SOS is an evolving experiment in how a collective of thinkers and doers can reshape the educational model aroundindependent critique through design. We want to ask questions like; can we make higher education affordable again? Isn’t critical design just as powerful as affirmative design? Whois education for?

SOS tours existing universities and bridges between cultural institutions to form a skeletalframework for students to find a more independent way of thinking and working.


What is Critical Design?

SOS is not affirmative design. SOS believes in the power of critical design to challenge contemporary comforts and absurdities to reveal new, and sometimes surprising realities. Affirmative design problem solves to maintain society’s injustices; critical design creates problems in order to expose society’s injustice.

Critical design is an approach that allows designers to distance themselves from continuing the status quo, using the power of design to reveal underlying hard realities through politically challenging provocations. Critical design has no single conventional model but always aims to forensically dissect an understanding of the world to uncover new truths through speculation of near futures or evidentiary analysis of past events. We believe design must engage with the narratives that underlie the contemporary quotidien.

Untitled (2017). Katja Novitskova.


Who is SOS?

SOS is an ever-growing partnership between practicing designers, artists, students, cultural institutions, donators and sponsors, existing schools and universities. SOS is a contributor lead organisation, relying on the mutual support that organisations can give one another. We are constructing an alternate funding model for an education based on the collaboration of existing cultural institutions through SOS.

There are numerous ways to participate in SOS; as speakers, tutors, student participant, workshop coordinator, host or sponsor. We are constantly looking for artists andpractitioners to collaborate with, to share their experience and to partner in research. Get in contact if you think you’d be interested in participating in our workshops or otherwise.

[Get Involved Link]

We are currently partnered with London’s Design Museum, The South London Gallery and Anise Gallery and is constantly looking to expand its network of contributors.

Image courtesy of the Design Museum.

Most importantly, SOS is the sum of its participants. SOS has held workshops at many universities in the UK, Europe and US and will host its own inaugural summer school in July 2019. We’re fascinated by curious minds who are looking for a space to challenge the world around them using the power of critical design!

We are interested in talking to anyone from any background who feels that critical designspeaks to them! SOS is constantly looking for participants for its roving workshops andprogrammes which can be fast-paced and demanding but designed to challenge your way ofdesign thinking. Students of all ages and background are thoroughly encouraged to apply toour 2019 summer school.

[SOS_19 Link]

SOS Founders

Pierre Shaw

Pierre Shaw obtained his BA Architecture at the University of Sheffield, UK where he was nominated for the RIBA Bronze Medal in architecture. Continuing his study in MA Architecture at the Royal College of Art his research explored the contemporary challenges faced by the nation-state and the nature of collective identity.

Pierre has also held a research fellowship at the British Council as well as publishing academic essays for e-flux and the Institute of Ideas. He is a member of the Future Cities Project helping to run talks and events and is a guest critic at the École Supérieure d’Architecture de Belleville, Paris. He was named as ‘One to watch’ by Blueprint Magazine in 2018. Pierre works alongside Kishan as architectural assistants at RIBA Stirling Prize winning Haworth Tompkins, London.

  • MA in Architecture at The Royal College of Art
  • BA in Architecture at Sheffield School of Architecture

  • 2016 / Future Cities Debates / University of Westminster
  • 2015 / Making Cities Summer School / Sheffield School of Architecture
  • 2014 - Current / Guest Critic / Sheffield School of Architecture
  • 2013 / Guest Critic / École Supérieure d’Architecture de Belleville, Paris

  • BLUEPRINT For the Future 2019 - One to Watch
  • Research Fellowship at the British Council
  • RIBA Bronze Medal Nomination
  • Dr Brian Wragg Prize in Architectural Draftsmanship
  • World Architecture Festival (WAF) Student Competition Shortlist

  • Future Cities Project
  • E-Flux
  • nstitute of Ideas

The Oxbridge Fibre Orbital (2018). Pierre Shaw.

Kishan San

As a Londoner of Indo-Chinese descent, Kishan’s work investigates fluctuating notions of identity in an increasingly unstable, globalised and cosmopolitan world society.

Currently, his work examines the liquefaction of citizenship and its possible architectural consequences.

  • Diploma in Architecture at The Architectural Association (Current)
  • BA in Architecture at The Uni. of Westminster

  • 2017 / RIBA Ambassadors Secondary School Course / Haworth Tompkins
  • 2015 - 2016 / Guest Critic / University of Westminster

  • Architectural Association Scholarship
  • RPP Material Practice Grant
  • University of Westminster Scholarship
  • RIBA Eyeline Commendation
  • University of Westminster Drawing Prize

  • RIBA Journal
  • Architectural Review Folio Blog

Year Zero (2017). Kishan San.