What is SOS_19

SOS_19 is The School of Speculation’s inaugural summer school and London’s newest independent critical design course.

Run from Monday 29th July for 2 weeks, 20 students will develop individual projects based on a speculative design methodology, receiving daily workshops and lectures from practitioners at the cutting edge of design and academia.

Hosted by the Design Museum, The South London Gallery and The Anise Gallery, students will work at some of London’s most critically acclaimed art and design institutions.

Working alongside a public series of events and lectures, students at SOS_19 will have a chance to publicise their work and research at a work-in-progress at the Design Museum.

From Friday 9th August, students will exhibit models and drawings at a final week-long exhibition at The South London Gallery.

Made possible through partnerships with some of London’s best loved cultural institutions, the school will offer places at £65, a fraction of the cost of similar university summer courses. Visited by an internationally recognised collective of academics and practitioners SOS_19 is a uniquely affordable design course looking for students with real ambition to define the future of design.

SOS will be offering 5 fee waivers for those in situations of financial hardship.

Applications close on Friday 24th May 2019.

[Apply Now Link]


The Brief

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 City of a Hundred Nations (2018). Kishan San (SOS Co Founder).


Course Outline

Over the two week summer school we will construct a series of diagrams, drawings, and objects to illustrate and speculate on future scenarios. Students will be guided through a series of workshops run by Dutch collective and performative design practitioners The Rodina and computational narrative and illustration group (ab)Normal.

Designed to provide structure to the creative process of world-building, students will navigate multiple perspectives in their constructed environments, speculating on the consequences of their design decisions. Utilising topical socio – political events, both real and fictionalised, a world of characters and consequences will be layered and montaged together to form context to their proposals. Each day we will review these worlds as a group, ensuring that the projects remain at a radical and critical distance from reality.

Week 1 @ The Design Museum

Day 01  The World As We Know It
We’ll kick off the course with a group mapping exercise, asking students to place topical events, phenomena and rituals onto a wall sized atlas split into fields of politics, technology, environments, society and economy.

Day 02 Triggers and Timelines
Using the atlas created on day 1 as a base, we will build collaged timeline diagrams to propose a speculative direction for a future world, focusing on the influencers, triggers, affectors and deflectors that will shape it.

Day 03 Fictional Actors
Using narrative design and storytelling, the projects will be developed through a character building exercise in order to populate and inhabit their worlds. Students will present the protagonists, antagonists and every (wo)men in their scenarios. To supplement their arguments, the students will produce a para-fictional slice of media (such as a newspaper clipping, Wiki article, YouTube video comment section conversation, etc) illustrating their actors and scenes.

Day 04 Future Gazing
Using the timelines, characters and scenes produced in the previous workshops, students will illustrate key moments along their timeline in 2D. We will encourage students to create and visualise using references in popular culture and media: familiar territories with the broadest visual impact. These will later be developed into more nuanced interpretations.

Day 05 Speculative Objects
Moving into 3D and in order to inhabit their future scenario through architecture, each student will design first a diegetic prototype model or future spatial intervention. These objects will be designed to act, perform or transform their context and will evidence and articulate issues pertinent to their world and its inhabitants and will.

Work-In-Progress show at the Design Museum
This is a chance for students to display their work at one of London’s most visited design institutions. This will be an ‘open house’ of sorts, giving the public a chance to view our in progress projects and illustrations.

Week 2 @ The South London Gallery

Day 06 Critical Processes
The 6th workshop aims to enhance the structure and presentation of students’ projects ahead of the crit. Going through tools of presentation to strengthen student’s arguments we will analyse projects through ‘The World Today’, ‘The Future Tomorrow’ and ‘The Consequences’.

Day 07 Crit Day!
A traditional day long crit, with a panel consisting of guest tutors, lecturers and relevant professionals and academics in and around the field, to provide rigorous critical feedback on their work and give students a taste of architectural education.

Day 08 & 09 Production
Two days for the production and refinement of items for students portfolios and the SOS exhibition. Individual tutorials throughout.
Alongside continued development and production of individual material, we will coordinate the exhibition design to create a layout and format dictated with the work itself and students interests. This final group design exercise will reshape and redefine the students final output requiring them to reconsider their projects in the context of an exhibition space.

Day 10 Exhibition
The final day will be spent building the exhibition, the group and individual works will be displayed for a week at The South London Gallery!
The exhibition will display the School's research to the wider architectural community, illustrating not just the efforts of the students over the 2 weeks.


Guest Tutors and Speakers

SOS brings together educators and experts on the edge of their disciplines, pushing the remit of traditional design thought. For the 2019 summer school SOS has invited a mix of recent graduates, accomplished practitioners, teachers and academics to deliver a course that balances experience, multiple perspectives, youthful dynamism and radical thought.

A curated group of academics and practitioners from the UK and skyped in from the US will provide our students with the cutting edge in critical art practice and academia. These are thinkers and doers we think are redefining today’s economic, artistic and design parameters.


Founded in 2010, Assemble has since delivered a diverse and award-winning body of work across the disciplines of Art, Design and Architecture - including the Granby Four Streets project which won the 2015 Turner Prize. Members of the collective are currently teaching in the fields of Architecture and Design at a number of institutions around the world, including the Royal College of Art, the University of Westminster and Bartlett (UCL).

John Walter

John Walter (b.1978) is a British artist living and working in London. His work encompasses a diverse range of media that includes painting, drawing, artist’s books, sculpture, costume, performance, video, sound, installation and spatial design. He studied at Chelsea School of Art and Design, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, The Slade School of Fine Art and was awarded a doctorate by The University of Westminster in 2017. In 2006 he was artist in residence at KIAC in Dawson City, Canada.

Jack Self

Jack is the Director and Editor-In-Chief of the REAL foundation and review - an outlet for radical new contemporary thought. He was previously the contributing Editor for the Architectural Review and Editor-at-Large for 032c. His work has been exhibited at the Maxxi, Rome, the Tate Britain, London, the ICA, London and the Design Museum, London, and has been published in The Guardian, eflux-journal, among others. In 2016 Jack curated the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The Rodina

Specialising in video, user experience, installations and visual identities, The Rodina’s multi media approach examines and critiques contemporary visual communication methodologies. In 2015, The Rodina coined the term ‘performative design’ in order to describe the practice of designing politically engaged surface-led visual design, or memes. The Rodina have exhibited in Seoul’s Card Gallery 2017 and the Stedelijk Museum 2016.


An experiment in architectural representation, (ab)Normal carefully de-construct photorealistic renders before rearranging them as illustrations based on Normal vectors. They create unfamiliar visual notions of space to produce an allegory of a culture that revolves obsessively around the internet, gaming and religion.

And many many more!


SOS_19 Reading List

Speculative Everything (2013), Dunne & Raby

Extrastatecraft (2014), Keller Easterling

The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (2016), Benjamin H. Bratton

New Dark Age (2018), James Bridle

Liquid Modernity (2000), Zygmunt Bauman

The Wretched of the Screen (2012), Hito Steryl

Lab Coats in Hollywood (2011), David Kirby

Manual for Redesigning Reality (2018), RCA ADS4 2018

Inventing the Future (2015), Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams

Platform Capitalism (2016), Nick Srnicek

Xenofeminism (2018), Helen Hester

Radical Technologies (2017), Adam Greenfield

Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? Memes, Design & Politics (2012), Metahaven

Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation (2012), Mark J. P. Wolf

Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness (2018) John Walter

A Cyborg Manifesto (1984), Donna J. Haraway

Red Plenty (2010), Francis Spufford

The Book of Dave (2006), Will Self

Such Stuff as Dreams (2011), Keith Oatly