Week 55 - 2 December 2022

Now is all.

That's the slogan for the World Cup this year. I like it cos I enjoy seeing them contort themselves to find something both uplifting and apolitical (no such thing). Now is all. Can absurd cycle round to profound? Feels like I'm one step away from saying 'Live Laugh Love' is actually Great Advice. Which it is.

Since coming back from Japan the feeling of living a weird double or triple or quadruple life is also back. I've started doing a week a month at Beam, a social enterprise that gets homeless people and refugees into jobs and homes. It's felt a bit like returning to the way I worked at Farewill - much more embedded in a team, thinking through problems in the round as opposed to the hand-off nature that lots of freelance stuff can sometimes be. The team is lovely, the whole office feels energised by the work being done, and I'm really enjoying it. Perhaps it's the whiplash quality of being in an office for a solid week per month that emphasises the double life thing. Something quite Severance about it.


At the same time the final project for my masters, looking at how young people can be more involved in the design of public space, barrels ahead. I'm doing it with Sanaa. My friend, not the architecture practice. Haha.

Can you loiter in utopia?

This term we've been developing and testing methods with young people, with the aim of figuring out what works before running a broader programme with younger people next year. Hopefully leading to a public intervention designed and built by young people.

Young people making different structures using themselves and red fabric

Young people making different structures using themselves and red fabric Young people making different structures using themselves and red fabric

We've run three pilots, with the most significant being a day-long workshop we held on Wednesday with 35 art foundation students at Kingston University. With them, we looked at the tension between the act of loitering and the idea of utopia - using them as the starting point to create 1:1 scale prototypes of spatial structures by the end of the day.

Person standing at a board, planning a space with a group

Sketch of different ideas for public space, including an amphitheatre and wiggly stage

Sketch of idea for public space workshop - 5 people leaning on a structure with different heights

The feedback was good and there were some lovely moments. And we were both really really impressed with the discussions had and prototypes made. Some people in the feedback said we'd got them thinking about public space in a new way, which is the dream. So lots of positives, but of course lots and lots we could do better. Some thoughts on that:

  • We got the tone slightly wrong. We introduced ourselves as Masters students and said they'd be helping with our research. It sucked all the air out the room. We had to rebuild the energy. I reckon if we'd said we are SOME SORT OF NAME (which we have to come up with!), and we run workshops looking at public space, we'd have started with more goodwill.
  • One of the highlights of the workshop is always when we get them to use their bodies as a material. (eg: As a group of 5 turn yourselves into a monument!) Our hope is that this experience translates to how they design an intervention later in the day, but it's hard to keep that element when you get people to sketch ideas. As soon as you have a pen in hand, it all becomes conceptual rather than embodied again. I do think there's real value in designing from the whole body rather than just the head. Maybe the language we're using at the moment is wrong - prototype makes me think of hard edges and technical drawings.
  • One of the key things you learn as a designer is how to iterate. We need to provide structure in our workshop to help young people with this - rather than settling on a first idea.
  • The nature of the prototyping task at the end leads the participants to produce an object-based outcome, rather than thinking spatially. How can we keep the spatial element live? This is perhaps to do with how we frame the expected outcome.

A few young people pulling a piece of red fabric taught

Multiple prototypes for public space installed in a car park

A prototype structure for 5 people to spend 10 minutes together. Made of cardboard

Anyway. Maybe that's all a bit inside baseball. Really looking forward to the next chance we get to do this. If you have any thoughts drop me a line, always nice to hear from people :)

Last update: 2022-12-02 18:20