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Design Philanthropy

Invited by local resident Christina Burnett (and familiar Sheffield film festival face!) I was invited this year to come up with a project for my Students from the Design Interactions Department at the Royal College of Art for Vauxhall in London. Tomorrow night they will be showing what they came up with back in Vauxhall at the Tate South Lambeth Library from 6.30 onwards.

The students were asked to spend three weeks thinking about propositions for a future Vauxhall and to consider what the term philanthropy meant to them personally and to the Vauxhall area. What in the broadest sense might it mean to ‘give’ to an area or community, or indeed, how might it feel to receive gifted time, money, objects or ideas from individuals?

The students were encouraged to consider past examples of philanthropy pertinent to Vauxhall as well as to meet many local people who donated their time to talk about current projects, initiatives and changes.  

They thought about what the term philanthropy could mean today and imagined what they might ‘contribute’ to Vauxhall using their own skills and personal riches.

Through the work we tried to address the term ‘Design Philanthropy’ - more as an inviting question than a definition of practice. You can see the project Blog here.

We are massively grateful to all the local people who have generously contributed their time and energy to the students’ projects. These are not finished projects, but an invitation to join us in considering what forms philanthropy might take in Vauxhall and the role designers might play in a changing community.

* In 1893 Henry Tate established the Free Tate Library on South Lambeth Road. Four years later the Tate gallery opened - sugar cube philanthropy?
* In the 1630's John Tradescant's personal botanical collection and home of curiosities 'The Ark' becomes so large he opened his house to the public becoming one of the first museums - 'Musaeum Tradescantianum'. 
* In 1890 the last wish of blind postmaster general Henry Fawcett was carried out by his wife Millicent Garret Fawcett, Octavia Hill & the Kryle Society and Vauxhall Park was created.
* In the 1980's the Bonnington squat cafe opened to provide food for those in the square without working kitchens, it still runs co-operatively in the square’s Community Centre. 
* In the future the 'Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea' (VNEB) development is planned to transform this 'opportunity area' with 16,000 new residential units, offices, hotels, shops, student hostels and the new American Embassy.