Ben Kelly RDI and Arrow Vale RSA Academy

Interior and exhibitions designer Ben Kelly RDI visited Arrow Vale RSA Academy and proposed a radical ‘live’ brief. The initial project for Year 12 product design students was to design an architectural shelving system for the school entrance hall to display student’s work. However, as communications developed during Ben’s visit, the brief, much to the students’ excitement, became a more daring proposition to completely re-design the reception space. When discussing the project Ben challenged the students to “dare to be different”, and to “challenge convention by breaking the rules”.

Ben then gave a presentation to a packed school hall, sharing his design path from school days, to a career-defining commission to design the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester, and beyond. The group developed their design proposal over several weeks, conducting research and experimenting with skills and ideas that which took both students and tutor “out their comfort zones”.

Ben returned to give a crit on their work and praised the students for the vision and ambition they had shown in tackling the project. He encouraged them to continue testing and revising their plans as the project had the tantalising possibility of becoming a reality. This project provided a unique opportunity for the students to take ownership of a space that could redefine the character of their school, and that enabled them to be confident about taking risks when testing their ideas.

An interior design project of this scale was a serious piece of work that had the capacity to affect people’s lives on a daily basis; staff, students, and visitors. Ben commented “the students are the collective authors of a piece of magic who now need to work a great trick to make it happen!”

The students proudly presented their architectural model to RSA President HRH The Princess Royal during her visit to the school in July 2014.

“Mr Kelly gave a fascinating insight into the thought processes, influence and inspiration he uses when he is designing a thought provoking piece. This talk really inspired us to think about what we could do with our reception area. We can’t wait for another opportunity to meet and work with Mr Kelly”

Bren Heald, Sixth Form student at Arrow Vale RSA Academy

Related project: Royal Designers for Industry (RDI)