Corina Angheloiu

"I think the days where clear career pathways were lined up at the end of traditional degrees are (nearly) over and early-career practitioners need to consider how they want to use their skills and time, rather than follow and auto-pilot approach climbing a traditional career ladder"

CompanyForum for the FutureLocationLondonCourseBA ArchitecturePositionSenior Designer and Project Manager

About Forum for the Future

Forum for the Future is an independent non-profit that works globally with business, government and civil society to solve complex sustainability challenges. We work to transform the critical systems that we all depend on, such as food and energy, to make them fit for the challenges of the 21st century. Forum has over 20 years’ experience inspiring new thinking, building creative partnerships and developing practical innovations to change our world. We share what we learn from our work to help empower others to become more sustainable.

What are your main roles and responsibilities?

In my role as designer in the Systems Change Lab, I bring design futures methods expertise to the Lab’s work on creating systemic change for sustainability.

I design processes, spaces for conversation and learning experiences, developing prompts and cues for different audiences to learn from the past and experience possible futures which challenge what our collective visions of preferable futures look like. I facilitate workshops and creative processes, as well as handling the project management for complex and collaborative projects. As part of this process, I also have business development responsibilities, which include relationship building and bid development.

Since joining Forum, I’ve helped shape experimental projects such as the Innovate UK Circular Economy Investigations, the EU InnovatE research project on citizen innovation for sustainability, theInquiry into the Future of Civil Society as well as supporting the development of the School of System Change.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I immensely enjoy the diversity of projects and challenges I work on, which allows me to experience a wide variety of contexts and domains. Forum is a champion of new ways of working as well, and I really enjoy the flexibility this affords me in terms of working remotely when needed. Last, but not least, I enjoy being the outsider-insider, as one of a handful of designers in the organisation.

How did you get from your architecture degree to where you are now?

I’ve been on a journey that has seen the evolution of my research and practice of design on a scale which slid from physical applications of design (such as architectural, urban and service design) to the more abstract and conceptual implications of design (such as the design of change projects and processes for sustainability). In other words, I’ve been journeying from designing things to using design methods to challenge and reimagine how we do things.

Along the way I worked for the participatory architecture practice die Baupiloten in Berlin; I co-founded Bucharest Urban Lab(Urboteca), a non-profit which operates in the fields of urban research, community engagement, and design to explore new approaches to architecture and urban design for sustainable and inclusive developments.

I was also a research associate for the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design, researching the changing context of the Olympic site fringes and its impact on existing communities. I went on to study for an MA Architecture at the Royal College of Art, and became increasingly aware of the potential of design methods and design thinking to have a transformative impact on systems beyond the built environment.

After graduating, I knew I wanted to focus my practice on the consequential redesign of the visible (food, housing, energy, etc.) and invisible (hierarchical decision-making, power dynamics, capitalism) systems around us. The question I was holding was: how can my practice of design provide ways to reflect on and challenge current societal values?

With the inquiry question in mind, nearly two years ago I joined the Systems Change Lab at Forum for the Future.

How has your architecture degree shaped your career, and what knowledge, skills or values developed at SSoA have you found relevant in your progression?

The degree at the University of Sheffield opened my eyes to the value of participatory-led architecture and human-centred design through the lens of highly established practitioners and academics such as Jeremy Till, Doina Petrescu, Peter-Blundell Jones and Bryan Lawson. The people-centric ethos of the School proved invaluable in shaping my values set and core beliefs about the role of design in our society, and really helped shape my consequent steps. Architectural education helped me build a strong springboard and skill set that I could then apply to different domains and challenges, which goes to prove the value of design education.

What top tips would you offer architecture students who are considering alternative careers to architecture?

I’d advise emerging designers to take the time afforded by their university education to think long and hard about where they want to put their working hours towards and the types of impact they want to have. The future of work looks radically different and trends such as automation to multigenerational workplaces (nevermind big issues such as climate change and social inequality) will require quick adaptability and lifelong learning. I think the days where clear career pathways were lined up at the end of traditional degrees are (nearly) over and early-career practitioners need to consider how they want to use their skills and time, rather than follow and auto-pilot approach climbing a traditional career ladder. This opens up really exciting opportunities for architects and designers to have a huge social impact, but will require creative thinking and adaptability throughout our careers.

Where do you see yourself in future?

Key to my practice going forward, is the further meshing of design, futures and systems change. I see huge potential in the transdisciplinary cross-pollination and translation to enable designers, innovators and other change makers to usher in a new societal paradigm.

Reflecting back on my journey here, I’m also keen to experiment with what might all this mean for design education. Can we imagine a better design education, which is student-centred rather than tutor-centred, inquiry driven rather than silver-bullet concept driven, systemic rather than siloed?

Alongside my practice as part of the Systems Change Lab, I’ll be embarking on a four-year action-research process taking the questions above a notch further through a PhD scholarship at the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College, funded by ESRC’s London Interdisciplinary Social Science DTP.