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School SOS

School SOS is a nomadic critical design school that aims to challenge current models of delivering higher education in the UK. The School operates as something between a design residency and fully fledged design school. Each year it invites young designers and practitioners for free design courses lengthening in duration.

Give it Arrest (2020) by Peter Brooks at SOS_20. Image courtesy of School SOS

School SOS was founded with the belief that architecture should challenge societal status quo and that architectural education is far too expensive in the UK. SOS was a response to the worsening crises in UK Arts education. The UK Government has removed Art and Design from its ‘core’ subjects at secondary school level and university tuition fees continue to rise prohibitively. As a nomadic school, SOS partners with a network of host institutions, galleries, workshops, schools, libraries, professionals, practitioners, artists, students and researchers.

Something between an artists’ residency and a fully fledged school of design

The founders Pierre Shaw and Kishan San envisioned SOS to become something between an artists’ residency and a fully fledged school of design, allowing students the freedom of space whilst retaining a core of lectures. Beyond the space of the school, SOS brings together multidisciplinary students, practitioners, teachers and artists who adopt critical design as a methodology to test their social, economic and political design principles and to form a network of like-minded artists and designers.

In 2019, SOS hosted the inaugural summer school SOS_19, aimed to explore the underrepresented effects of digital platforms on our cities. It was co-hosted by three partners: Design Museum, the South London Gallery and Anise Gallery. SOS invited a mix of recent graduates, design practitioners and teachers and academics to deliver a course that balances experience, multiple perspectives, youthful dynamism and radical thought.

SOS_20 gathered 20 students of art, design, architecture and related disciplines, aged 18 – 24 to participate in the residency program. The four main themes were: Performance Therapy, Digital Labour Relations, Speculative History and Protest Architecture. During the residency, three weeks of individual work followed one week of group work based on the above thematics. The course includes technical workshops that will give participants time to develop skills in a number of digital mediums. SOS_21 will be a 12 week course, hosted by Bold Tendencies, the Koppel Project, the ICA in London and the South London Gallery, with support from the Centre of Contemporary Arts Glasgow and the Design Museum.

School SOS was founded in London in 2019. SOS_19 was the inaugural summer school hosted by the Design Museum, the South London Gallery and Anise Gallery in the month of July/August. The residency SOS 20 was co-hosted and took place at Design Museum, the Koppel Project and Blackhorse Workshop.

Organisation and people

The School operates in partnerships with practicing designers, artists, students, cultural institutions, donors and sponsors, existing schools and universities. School SOS is a collaboration between the two founders and host organizations Design Museum and the South London Gallery.

Pierre Shaw is an Architect at Haworth Tompkins and Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication (LCC / UAL) in Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures. Kishan San is a Researcher at Human Rights research agency Forensic Architecture. SOS also invites artists, designers, students, academics and practitioners at the intersection of critical design and art to participate in its residencies and summer schools.

This description is based on excerpts from websites as referred to in notes and input from Kishan San.


SOS website:

Black Horse Workshop:

Interview with Pierre Shaw & Kishan San on KooZA/rch:

Michelle Song
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