Hyundai Motor Group Visit 2023

Hyundai Motor Group (the Group) and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) announced the latest phase of work in the RISD x Hyundai Motor Group Research Collaborative, a multiyear partnership exploring the relationship between nature, art and design.

Now in its fourth year, the partnership brings together RISD faculty members and student researchers who are helping the Group investigate mutuality, the future of spaces and sustainability strategies under the theme of ‘Collaborative Future Living.’

“In the realm of design, sustainability becomes paramount as we acknowledge that we always learn from nature,” said Karim Habib, Executive Vice President and Head of Kia Global Design Center. “By observing and studying the intricate systems and solutions that nature provides, we can create future living spaces that not only harmonize technology, humanity and the environment but also draw inspiration from the wisdom of nature itself.”

The Group and RISD have been collaboratively studying socially and environmentally equitable futures since 2019. The partnership reflects the Group’s commitment to fostering a sustainable society while highlighting the expertise of RISD faculty members and the experimental creativity of students to conceive of future realities.

“When thinking about designing for future generations, natural systems and processes are there to remind us how vital and vulnerable our environment is,” said SangYup Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of Hyundai Global Design Center. “Through this collaboration, we were able to understand nature and gain insight into design that benefits everyone without harming the environment, and through this, it became an opportunity to have a broader and longer perspective where nature and humans can coexist.”

“RISD and Hyundai Motor Group share a deep curiosity about the world, which allows both organizations to examine and explore boundless ideas and innovations,” said RISD President Crystal Williams. “This work prioritizes educating students for the future, bringing their current creative practices to bear on today’s most critical challenges. Such contributions require time and space for reflection, renewal, experimentation and innovation. We thank Hyundai Motor Group for continuing to invest in this partnership.”

This year, 25 students examined the theme of ‘Collaborative Future Living’ via two spring courses. In the course ‘Coexistence in Crisis,’ taught by Architecture Critic Leeland McPhail, students examined architecture as a body, shelter and community in order to identify natural systems. The scale of these proposals allowed a focused study of natural, organic assemblages and the sustained close observation of the land and its ecosystems. This studio challenges the relationship between settler coloniality and climate change. In so doing, it requires a systems-wide approach that engages political, climactic, biotic, geological and geographic material and, most importantly, the ecosystem.

In ‘Future Spaces and Autonomous Vehicles,’ taught by Associate Professor of Furniture Design Patricia Johnson, students explored the future spaces of autonomous vehicles using scientific methodologies combined with design thinking. They focused on organic interiors and energy management, specifically on biological strategy in nature.

In his role as Hyundai Motor Group Biological Programs Fellow, artist and ecologist Dr. Felipe Shibuya co-taught both sponsored courses. This new format brings biodesign processes employed by students to a new level, drawing attention to many critical questions regarding future spaces, mutuality, coexistence in crisis and nature-inspired design. The courses offer different perspectives and technological tools to explore sustainability under a common framework of shared workshops, critiques, readings and guest lectures, exploring a variety of scales and scopes — from interpersonal to global spatial relationships and dynamics.

“The future of research lies in the dynamic collaboration between industry leaders like Hyundai Motor Group and Rhode Island School of Design,” said RISD Provost Anais Missakian. “Together, we ignite a powerful synergy that transcends traditional boundaries, blending nature, technology and creativity. Through this alliance, groundbreaking ideas are born, pushing the boundaries of innovation and shaping a future where art and science converge for the betterment of society.”

The research is augmented by the expertise and methodologies of trained scientists at RISD’s Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab, led by marine biologist and interim director of the lab, Dr. Jennifer Bissonette. The Nature Lab team works with RISD faculty and students on biodesign topics, including biomimicry, biomaterials and biosystems applications with resources that include over 100,000 individual specimens and high-speed imaging technologies.

Across the four years of activity, RISD faculty and Nature Lab counterparts have guided students through various modes of inquiry, including material studies, scientific principles, behavioral ecology and environmental ethics. Hyundai and Kia designers have provided necessary input and feedback on projects throughout the process. Additional support in research activities has come from expert staff support in Co-Works, RISD’s interdisciplinary research and fabrication lab focused on emerging technologies.

The 2023 research groups reflect seven RISD degree programs (Architecture, Ceramics, Digital + Media, Furniture Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Textiles) and the RISD-Brown Master of Arts in Design Engineering (MADE) program.

This summer, 12 students from this cohort will continue to work with the two faculty leads, spending eight weeks of intensive, continued activity on expanding ‘Collaborative Future Living’ research in collaboration with the design teams at Hyundai and Kia.

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