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Global Innovation Design (MA/MSc)

Axel Pietschker

Born and raised in Asia, educated in Germany and based in London, my background is defined by different cultural influences and perspectives. Following a ten-year corporate career with a large global organisation in various positions across the UK and Switzerland, my interests in sustainability and spatial design became the catalyst for change. Underpinned and driven by the desire for meaningful impact and social innovation, I decided to pursue a joint degree in Global Innovation Design at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College, London.

Raised within an international context and with no conventional design background, my practice focuses on the interrelational ties between us beings and nature and how Traditional Ecological Knowledge can inform and shape our future relationship with the environment. Set in the non-digital space and defined through material practices, my work builds on the desire to shift human’s perception of nature as a mere commodity to an active and equal collaborator.

The increasing level of emotional alienation between these two entities led me to investigate human's sensory array as a pathway to reconnect with the natural environment through 'Sensory Augmentation'. Exposed to predominately optic and audio signals, my work focuses on the sense of scent as an understated medium in our sensory arsenal and the development of potential applications in the physical realm based on olfaction.

Sensory augmentation — Scent-infused road-marking.
Scented pigment — Concrete test cube.
The deterring power of scent — Illustration - scent-emitting surface.
Guided by scent, deterred by smell — Mitigating roadkill through olfactory surfaces.

Scent is a natural communication and demarcation method within the animal kingdom. This project explores the viability and feasibility of olfaction to propose that wildlife-vehicle collisions can be reduced by using a scent-infused, road-marking coating suitable for concrete and asphalt surfaces.

Rather than following the conventional paradigm of current invasive procedures, this project takes an embodied approach focusing on the sensory perception of animals. Aiming for a non-invasive and cost-effective approach that does not restrict wildlife populations but instead directs animals away from potentially hazardous situations and leads them in the direction of safe passageways.

BLOP deployed — Illustration - bird's eye view of BLOP.
BLOP at work — Illustration - BLOP on Oxford Circus.
The technical basics — Triggered by redefined parameters, BLOB is activated through pressure sensors.
Up and close with BLOP — Inflation and release mechanism.

Influenced by the pandemic and concerned with the reduction of transmission risk, this project experimented with the creation of a modular system consisting of rapidly deployable and inflatable structures to control crowd movements.

Set within an urban environment, our design concept is multifold and concerned with the flow of traffic, whether within a closed or open structure. 

Designed as a smart guidance system, the concept, which consists of dynamic hard wearing inflatable structures, assists with the rapid and effective re-direction of large bodies within a wide range of civilian contexts.

TRACES OF MATERIALITY — What you leave behind; what is left behind Traces of work shine through the emptiness of space A left-behind scale; splashes of colour An empty space; shadows mutter A green flicker against the blue A workspace left in residue.
A SERVANT OF TIME; WAITING IN VAIN — A colourful concoction, encased in blue A pair of lifeless gloves confirms what is true A space empty of life and soul Material samples, made from resin, uncollected they await our presence Fragments of time, divine in display, they continue their day.
REMNANTS OF COVID; GHOSTS OF TIME — Elegant sash windows open and wide The sublime light, powerful and bright Illuminating space and mind Leaving time and no traces behind The pulse of time continues its beat, oblivious to our need.
MATERIAL TRACES; A FRAGMENT OF CRAFT — Removed in haste from its silicone womb for display Dark green particles remain as a witness to the extraction Glutinous in composition, these artefacts will succumb to putrefaction World and workshop under siege, crushed and threatened by the disease The material world on its last wheeze before the digital tidal wave.
A COMPOSITION OF COLOUR; ASHES OF TIME — Sat in darkness, a silhouette, awoken by luminous light Speckles of pigment under an artificial light A colourful blanket composed of material traces Illuminating the firmament empty of stars; defaces The light extinguishes, and so does the limelight.
A SPACE CAPTURED IN TIME; A SPACE WITHOUT TIME — Chairs drifting guideless through the space of time The Flying Dutchman of our time Unoccupied, the deck shines sublime A delicate interplay of light interrupts the plight Through the hollowness of the space, faint sounds of delight.

Conceptually evolved through the course of the pandemic, this series depicts through stills the slow impact of the tightening lockdown restrictions triggered through the relentless spread of Covid-19. Underpinned by the swift and brutal transformation from the physical to the digital realm, this work pays tribute to the melancholic beauty of barren spaces.

Thriving workspaces brought to a sudden hold in the wake of the pandemic. With a particular focus on the RCA's working culture, this project seeks to capture the essence of deserted studios and workshop spaces through discarded material artefacts and impressions.