Fleur is coming to the end of her first year studying V&A/RCA MA in History of Design. Recipient of the Dr Sylvia Lennie England Bursary (V&A Museum), and the Design History Society’s Undergraduate Essay Prize 2019, she spent pre-lockdown 2020 on a term exchange at Bard Graduate Center in NYC. She has a BA History from UCL (First Class Honours), following on from her Art Foundation, and has also been part of National Youth Theatre as a Costume Technician from 2013.
More recently Fleur has produced her own digital heritage focused projects. These include Sustainable Histories, a platform to showcase historical objects which demonstrate repair, repurposing or reuse, and co-founding with Anna Talley in the spring of 2020 a rapid-response digital archive, Design in Quarantine, to collate design responses to COVID-19. This has been featured in the Financial Times, Disegno Journal, and V&A Pandemic Objects.
Image: Portico de la Gloria, Cowper, Isabel Agnes,1868, London, Museum No. 3453-1932 © V&A Museum.
Her research at the RCA/V&A broadly focuses on replication, reproduction and knowledge transference of medieval design technologies - in both modern and medieval contexts.
She began the MA with an original analysis of a 1870s plaster cast held at the V&A. It was cast in-situ, in pink textured plaster, from the external ornamental decoration of Sultan Hasan’s mosque (1356-63) in Cairo, before being recast into white fine plaster in-house in South Kensington. It is ultimately representative of an educational yet 'othering' relationship with medieval and non-Western architecture in nineteenth century Britain, and how reproductive technologies enabled this.
Researched whilst in NYC, her studies continued with an exploration of the integration of ‘Gothic’ styles with early New York skyscraper design. In particular she examined how this has generated a diverse and multivalent field of scholarship spanning the last century and beyond. The very flexibility of the 'Skyscraper Gothic' enables it to retain relevance and be constantly adapted into different research, generating new and contemporary insights in design historiography.
Her dissertation is currently focused upon medieval automata. How far were they were designed representations of knowledge networks between Christendom and the Islamic world? How did their creation culturally utilise craft and artisanal practices rather than scholastic adn intellectual persuits? How and why were they were viewed as liminal, marvellous and/or magical objects? How far can they be seen as material manifestations of trying to understand/manipulate the laws of nature?
In particular her current practice explores how space, objects for mass observation and performance in medieval and Early-Modern Christo-Islamic environments promoted these forms of complex design knowledge.
Image: Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris, Johannes, de Fontana, 1420-30, Venice - BSB Cod.icon. 242, via Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum (MDZ).
The closure of museums, libraries, and archives has forced a shift upon traditional design history research methodologies and forms of archiving. Inspired by the technique of rapid-response curation in museums, the digital collection of this archive is a real-time example of changing research methods in light of recent events. By creating this archive, we aim for the material within to be publicly accessible beyond simply searching within the interface of our site. We seek to collect works which are integral to representing the evolution of design responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
Our aim is to represent the range of responses across design disciplines including but not limited to graphics, architectural concepts, product and furniture design, and bespoke craft. We are currently working to export the metadata for each project in our archive. Once this is resolved, we will upload the latest version of the site every Friday to Github for public download. We hope that storage on a cloud service will preserve the data of our site indefinitely and give future researchers the capability to access the archive we have assembled here.
We are open for submissions! If you’d like to submit a project, please first review our style guide on our website, then, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have been featured in The Financial Times, V&A Pandemic Objects and Disegno Journal.
History of Design MA, RCA2020 Team
This serves as a springboard for collecting, discussing and sharing ideas on the topic of Digital Discomforts. The project explores issues brought about by the impact of digitization and the web, such as structural inequalities in digital access, the design of sites and content encountered online, user experiences in the internet and evolving conversation channels.
Resulting from intense weeks of collaborative work, the following diagrams are representations of our practice as design historians, intended to reflect real-life corridor-conversations we would have usually had in person as part of our studies. Impromptu, spontaneous and intellectually unpredictable these conversations embrace spelling mistakes and thematic jumps as characteristic of the method of communication.
Our diagrams show the twists and turns of such informal, creative encounters. You may find them sometimes difficult to navigate, or even difficult to read. This is a deliberate dramatisation of the experience of digital inequality, bringing with it digital discomfort.
For more from our project, the opportunity to digitally navigate and read our maps, and to see all the debates together - please see below, and for all of the maps, please check out our Story feature.