Residential Weekend 2 – Lane End Conference Centre

Last September, I was asked to join the team at Bucks New University and deliver the Project Management module for the final year students of the Fda in Kitchen Design. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity!

Affording me a head start, my wife Sam recently graduated from the course so I am already rather familiar with the set up and course content. I must though however, admit to regularly viewing her studies and experiences with a slight eye of envy, especially when noting the guest speaker line ups, organised events and of course the level of mentoring by way of the now established tutors and course leaders.

Due to previously booked commitments I was frustratingly unable to make the last residential weekend, held in October. This weekend was therefore to be my first so I wanted to note and share my experiences for the benefit of any budding designers out there that may be considering applying for the course in the future.

The weekend was organised over three fully packed days, the first of which kicking off with a trip to the Roundhouse Design factory in Malvern. Roundhouse are an exceptionally bespoke, high end manufacturer so the trip gave the first year students, many of whom had not previously undertaken a factory tour, the story of the journey taken by palletised raw timber and sheet material as it works it’s way through the workshop, culminating as beautiful furniture. Simon, the production director, gave us an expert tour and understanding of the different stages of the process and even arranged a wonderful Italian spread for lunch. The students got to appreciate the unforgiving and relentless attention to detail as well as meet the many unsung heroes tasked to deliver a product of this quality (including, of course, Woody the boxer dog!).

Continuing our action filled day, back on the coach we jumped and off we headed to the BSH headquarters in Milton Keynes where the students were to put into practice their culinary skills. Here they had the chance to experience some new cooking techniques and under the excellent guidance of the Bosch home economics team, dished up some delicious portions of sous-vide cooked king prawns and duck. Dinner concluded fairly promptly due in part to a slightly grumpy coach driver and we returned to base for approximately 10.00pm. We settled down for a relaxing evening and an enjoyable opportunity to chat with the students.

Day two started off with all three years’s students together for the guest speakers. The fist speaker was Professor Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford. As would be expected from a speaker of his calibre, an insightful and thought provoking hour of listening followed. The presentation was based on the often overlooked powers the five senses possess on our perception of food. It proved how intertwined science and food truly are but most importantly, how the principles Charles demonstrated should be considered in our designs.

Next to talk was Vaiva Kalnikaitė, CEO and founder of Nu-Food ( The presentation was titled “The Shape of Taste to Come: Designing Technology for Tomorrow’s Kitchen”. Vaiva and her team have developed the technology of 3D food printing – a concept that appeared to polarise opinion but certainly hinted at having an opportunity in the market. It will be very interesting to see how the concept develops over the coming years and is certainly one to keep an eye on.

The afternoon sessions took a more practical turn with a marketing presentation from former KBBNTG chairman Ray Isted and computer aided design demonstration from my good friend and ArtiCAD Sales Director, Colin Seaton. I then went on to host a group discussion and private tutorial session with my current year three students.

After a quick freshen up and bite to eat we retired to the lounge for a ‘fireside chat’ with Visiting Professor Johnny Grey. I had heard many great things about these discussions so I was particularly intrigued! Johnny debated matters we had heard earlier in the day from the guest speakers and then encouraged tutors and students alike to consider feelings of happiness and how they could be incorporated into our living space designs.

While Saturday was less intensive for me, the rest of the students had presentations, lectures and briefings relevant to their particular modules. After a final feeding it was time to hit the road.

So my first residential weekend is now concluded. I enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm of the students and saw some real potential that this course can extract, help them move forward with their careers and achieve great things. There is an exceptional level of experience and talent in the previously established teaching team so I can only hope I can add to that with my own experiences. Having the opportunity to mix with and get to know the students and tutors individually completed a wonderfully informative and fun weekend. I’m very excited for the next one.