I love seeing the journey our students go on when they study with us. I’m constantly impressed by the imaginative responses they have to briefs and the lengths they go to in their research and thinking.
The head of our Design Department, Professor Gareth Williams, has curated ground-breaking exhibitions at world-renowned art institutions. In his work at Middlesex, he’s constantly impressed and inspired by the ideas and outlook of his students.
“At Middlesex, there’s a strong ethic around enhancing potential and bringing out the best in students and staff. I think that’s wonderful. Our university isn’t elitist, it’s not closed off to anybody. I’m hugely proud of working somewhere where you’re giving access to ideas and possibilities to people who perhaps haven’t been exposed to them before.”
“There’s a great energy that comes from a group of people from different countries, different backgrounds and with a mix of experiences working together. They benefit from having a global point of view.
“I cut my teeth as a design specialist at the V&A Museum, where I worked for 18 years as the Curator of Twentieth Century and Contemporary Furniture and Product Design. A highlight for me was taking a huge truck to the Milan Furniture Fair and filling it up with all the latest products which we displayed in the V&A just days later.
“This enabled the museum to represent what was happening here and now, unedited. It was a massive curatorial challenge, trying to shift a paradigm in how museums act. Another highlight and challenge was developing the museum’s Architecture Gallery – representing 2,000 years of architectural history in one room.”
“I came to Middlesex in 2016 to head up the Design Department. It was a new challenge and allowed me to get closer to the source of design and understand the process even more.
“Our creative courses are structured so you can learn the basics and principles first – you can’t break the rules if you don’t know them. Your hand is firmly held in your foundation or first year. Gradually, that hold is released and you have more time to explore ideas, try things out and take risks. By the time you’ve graduated, your independent and creative thinking has been drawn out and you can stand on your own feet.”
“I’d advise students to make the most of the wealth of opportunities and facilities here on campus. And make the most of our London location – use where we are as a way of finding who you are.
“You come here to find yourself, and our job is to enable you to do that, not to tell you who you are but to help you find that creative person.”
We wanted to acknowledge 150 years of our history as well as representing Middlesex as a forward-looking institution.
At over a metre long, weighing five kilograms, and featuring intricate designs of gold plate, red garnet and titanium, it’s hard to imagine our ceremonial mace started life as a sketch on silversmith Richard Fox’s notepad.
“Like anything I make, it began with pencil and paper,” says Richard, an alumnus, former staff member, and one of Britain’s leading silversmiths, known for creating Formula 1 trophies and bonnet ornaments for Rolls-Royce cars.
“As a past student, it was an honour to be asked to design the mace. Everything about it is home-grown, including one of the metals used, Argentium, which was invented by Peter Johns, my former Middlesex tutor.”
University Chancellor, Dame Janet Ritterman, kindly donated the entire amount for the mace to be designed and created. The brief was developed by Gareth Williams, Head of the Department of Design. He wanted it to be symbolic of the county of Middlesex and the University.
“The mace had to be classic and have gravitas, but also a freshness,” says Gareth. “We wanted to acknowledge 150 years of our history as well as representing Middlesex as a forward-looking institution.”
Features on the mace include an enamel globe, to represent the international reach of the university; three seax blades, an ancient weapon of the Anglo-Saxons, representing the county of Middlesex; and intertwined ribbons recording the names and dates of our predecessor colleges.
It was made using a combination of traditional silversmith techniques and computer-aided design – reflecting the way the university embraces both traditional crafting methods and cutting-edge technology.
Richard was there to see the mace unveiled at the 2018 summer graduation ceremony. “I was very proud to see the mace in action,” he says. “It’s a striking symbol of the university’s history – and future.”