Winners of Bristol Portal competition announced

Issue date: 18 July 2022


A team of product design students from the University of the West England (UWE Bristol) will visit Portal HQ in Vilnius, Lithuania, after winning a competition to design the future Bristol Portal - an innovative and exciting digital window, uniting cities across the world.

The four second-year students - Joe Courtney, Jonathon Francis, Luke Harris and Oliver Newey - took the top spot in the competition, run by Video Window and the Portal Unity Network, thanks to their outstanding designs for the Bristol Portal, which will allow people to connect, in real-time, 24/7 with others from across the world. 

Video Window, makers of the world’s first “always on” video conferencing portal and whose technology has been uniting people in two European cities - Vilnius and Lublin - since last year, are now looking to make Bristol the next city for this exciting project aimed at unifying people in these uncertain times.

The “biggest art installation in the world” would be sited in Bristol’s city centre and feature a huge circular screen embedded in an 11-tonne housing.  Its shape symbolizes the wheel of time and the Portal represents a coming together of space and time.  It would be connected to another city so that people would have an insight into what’s going on in a distant world.

Teams of students from UWE Bristol’s BSc and BA Product Design programmes were challenged to design the new Portal. They were asked to consider and design creative technical solutions and a visual identity which reflects the city’s culture.

Daryl Hutchings, CEO of Video Window said: “We’ve been inspired by the winning product design team at UWE Bristol and they truly deserve the chance to see the original Portal in action in Lithuania. Video Window’s aim is to remove frustration and improve human connection - we are proud to power the Portal and want to bring this to our home city of Bristol.”

Bringing this to Bristol would be fantastic for this vibrant city and the competition encouraged everyone to become involved in the project.  Where should the portal be sited and why?  Who might the city “twin” with for the project? And how can the design reflect the values of the city of Bristol?

The UWE Bristol students who won, did so not just for their design, but importantly because they considered the practicalities of installing the Portal into a city.  Factors such as costs, environmental concerns and materials were cleverly assessed by the winning team who are due to finish their studies at UWE Bristol in 2023.

Student Joe Courtney commented: “Working with Video Window as a client gave me and the team an exciting peek into what comes next. It was an incredible feeling winning the competition; working together drove us to success and created friendships. It would be staggering to see parts of our design concept making it to Bristol and to one day see it in the flesh.”

Phil Bommer, Programme Leader for BSc (Hons) Product Design Technology at UWE, said: “It’s been a really innovative and interesting project which has a genuinely positive and profound purpose. It is a fantastic way to connect communities from all over the world, enabling people to see, share and collaborate with each other culturally and artistically and to form new enriching networks and relationships both civically and personally. 

“UWE Bristol has a strong commitment and track record of engaging with Bristol's cultural and business community and this project was a perfect example of this collaboration. Our students rose to the challenge and created some fantastic design proposals which we hope will help to shape the future of the Bristol Portal.”

The Portal was conceived and built by the not-for-profit Benediktas Gylys Foundation. Using Video Window’s technology, the aim is to link cities and therefore countries - bringing much needed unity to people and communities across the world.

Daryl Hutchings continues: “Video Window are super proud of the winning team at UWE Bristol and are motivated to bring this project into reality for Bristol.”

A video explaining the UWE Bristol Portal project is available here.

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