The Storymap allows people to share and explore local stories through an augmented map.
The Storymap of the Isle of Hackney is a hybrid digital-physical platform that allowed audience members at the Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival in London’s East End to contribute personal anecdotes to a fictionalised map of the local area, bringing together sharing mechanisms and local places in a ‘spatialised form of social media.’ This aimed to interrogate the role that space and place might play in networks of sharing, giving contributors control over where their content is positioned. The interface aimed at critiquing linear display mechanisms in social media, such as timelines. The hybrid platform also operated as an archive, storing contributions and making them accessible to other audience members.
The Storymap is supported by the AHRC’s Creative Exchange. The collaborative project was developed by Francesca Duncan (Shakespeare in Shoreditch), Josh Nawras (RIFT), Peter Thomas (Middlesex University), Angus Main (Falmouth University), Oliver Smith (development), Jimmy Tidey (Royal College of Art, The Creative Exchange) and Benjamin Koslowski (Royal College of Art, The Creative Exchange).
A second iteration of the project saw the Storymap brought together with Localnets (LINK) for the Creative Exchange’s ‘Designing Digital Now’ exhibition at FACT Liverpool (2016). ‘Localnets’ is a web based application which maps out communities using social media activity. It uses data from Twitter to create network diagrams of the key actors within a community, and extracts geographic data to understand where people are talking about. The integrated platform has the potential to expand beyond the initial contexts of the two projects. The affordances of the interface allow discussion of the data presented at a large scale, while enabling individual participants to contribute to the map. These properties could be useful in applications around democratic inclusion, especially around community issues and planning.
Photos by Camilla Greenwell and Daniel Gray.
Group Therapy: Mental distress in a digital age
This exhibition design aims to actively encourage the visitor to reflect on their own mental health.
The design for FACT Liverpool’s Group Therapy: Mental distress in a digital age (5 March 2015 - 17 May 2015) aimed to actively encourage the visitor to reflect on their own mental health. The framing of content and people, and the blurring of the distinction between the two, intended to encourage thinking about the viewer’s relationship to the subject matter explored in the exhibition. The use of prop-like frames not only delineates space within the gallery but actively seeks to make the visitor an integral part of the setting. These frames establish a range of thresholds within the space and create continually shifting visual relationships between the artworks, objects, and visitors.
The design of the exhibition is rooted in the research project with the Mental Health Unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Scotland (link). The tensions identified in the Mental Health Unit dealt with thresholds which exist between individual needs, and institutional requirements: a need for privacy in patients, for example, contrasts with that for observation by staff, while the desire to make, or experience a welcoming or homely feel in a space is at odds with the context of a hospital. These environments can create friction due to the lack of individual control over the physical environment, and the necessity for the space to fulfil certain institutional expectations.
These tensions inspired the relationships and concepts explored through the exhibition design of Group Therapy. It highlights the thresholds between the private, individual experience of the space, and the societal dynamics behind issues around mental health which are raised by the artworks and the main curatorial questions of the exhibition.
Photos by Stephen King and Sara Hibbert.
Group Therapy at FACT
States of Mind
An interactive console to reflect on personal mental wellbeing.
States of Mind invites visitors to create a personal object in response to the question ‘What does your mental health look like right now?’ Changing its shape, size and colour are variables that become a sort-of abstract ‘language,’ allowing visitors to respond to the question, and to externalise and communicate something that is inherently private.
Contributions are shared and publicly displayed on screens within the open areas of the building outside the gallery space. This allows them to be understood not just as individual states-of-mind, and instead begins to establish a dialogue between the personal artworks. As a new commission for FACT Liverpool, the project provides a creative framework to elicit audience feedback, allowing individual visitors to reflect on their personal experience of the exhibition, which tackles broad societal issues, and externalising this process through an abstract visual ‘language.’ The personal ‘artifacts’ also informed a range of workshops and creative activities throughout the duration of Group Therapy and were projected into Liverpool during ‘Mental Health Awareness Week.’
This is a collaborative design research project for FACT Liverpool, with Brendan Dawes of Nexus Interactive Arts and Roberto Bottazzi, Karen Ingham and Benjamin Koslowski, supported by the AHRC’s Creative Exchange.
Photos by Stephen King and Benjamin Koslowski.
States of Mind: An interactive Installation
Madlove: A designer asylum
A bold new exploration of design for mental health care environments, Madlove is a new project by artist the vacuum cleaner in collaboration with Hannah Hull. This beta version of the project was designed in collaboration with architect James Christian of Projects Office: Documentation from a range of workshops and gatherings around the country was used as the starting point for a new installation of bold beautiful structures at FACT in Liverpool as part of the ‘Group Therapy’ exhibition.
The playful structures are abstracted embodiments of the spatial qualities discussed in workshops; together, they offer a range of settings to choose from: from privacy in the ‘Cooling Tower,’ a reinterpretation of the padded cell, to conversation in the ‘Turkish Delight’ and workshops and social activity in the central ‘Oasis.’
Photos by Stephen King and Sara Hibbert.
I am currently doing a PhD at the Royal College of Art in London with the Creative Exchange, an AHRC-funded Knowledge Exchange hub that is fostering collaboration between creative industry and academia. My practice-led research under the title ‘Framing Privacy’ uses architectural representation to better understand interaction in digital spaces, focusing on privacy as an increasingly intangible quality of interaction.
Individual privacy can be compromised in digitally mediated spaces, as networked communication has made scales of interaction difficult to grasp. This research explores how architectural representation at different scales, from the miniature to the room set and the neighbourhood, can support a rethinking of how privacy is understood online.
The PhD thesis presents a design practitioner’s journey through a series of projects at different architectural scales that condense and resituate dynamics of digital communication, negotiating the abstract digital realm through intuitive and inherited understandings of physical space.
Methods of architectural practice are applied to transfer the dynamics of online social media interaction into spatial and shared live contexts with the individual at the centre. Interdisciplinary collaborations on a series of projects under the umbrella of the Creative Exchange, a national AHRC-funded knowledge exchange hub, have informed a case study approach. Three main projects test methods of representation: miniaturisation through objects, spatialisation in immersive exhibition settings, and navigation through an urban neighbourhood in the shared context of promenade theatre. These methods are evaluated through reflective practice aimed at enhancing the understanding of privacy online.
The research suggests that an experiential and relational use of architectural representation - as opposed to a purely symbolic one - can enhance individual perspectives on digitally mediated interactions. Digital settings that currently lack structure and meaning are framed as new contexts for architectural practice. A spatially informed vocabulary of transparency, opacity, overlap, enclosure, peripheral vision and focus is developed to consider digital exchange in a more nuanced way. The research contributes to knowledge in the field of design through the interdisciplinary application of methods of architectural representation to address challenges of digital communication.
WORKSCAPES: Exploring new directions in office space
This architectural study looks at the future of the office building by analysing space use in three organisations working at different scales across the city.
People at work are no longer tethered to a desk due to new technology. They can now work anywhere and, as a result, occupancy rates in offices are falling. This study looks at what organisations can do to re-purpose the office building by exploring future scenarios of space use and assessing the implications of providing a wider range of work settings.
Supported by a consortium of industry partners, the project is set in the context of a rapid shift in workplace practice: not only is technological change creating more flexible use of office space, but economic change is also driving up property costs and encouraging more efficient use of space.
To explore how different office buildings have evolved over time and how they might adapt in the future, the project looked in particular at the three types of workplace: the urban historic office in a converted warehouse, the post-war purpose-built office close to city-centre transport links, and the newer out-of-town business campus.
Research with Users
The study began with an extensive literature review, expert interviews and the analysis of architectural information. This was followed by in-depth user research with 20 individuals in three organisations operating at different scales within the new media industry: a creative agency with 60-70 staff (converted warehouse), a business consulting organisation with around 1,800 people in the building at any one time (purpose-built office), and a global communications company with up to 4,000 employees (out-of-town campus).
The three organisations work in buildings that are typical in terms of the size, character and function of the tenants. What the study sought to define was how individual workers use the office building within its local context. A user research toolkit was created to help focus a series of interviews and observations – this comprised of diagrams of the individual buildings and their urban settings with stickers denoting activities.
The researcher worked with each participant to build a 'space map'. This method was used to collect and compare user data between the three organisational types in six categories: communication, collaboration, patterns of work, variety of settings, mobility and social interaction.
These findings – in particular the relationship between the variety of work settings and employees' mobility - were then used to map opportunities for more effective use of office space. An architectural framework borrowing from two design concepts for the Parc de la Villette in Paris was developed as a vehicle for communicating the scenarios of space use. This highlights four key elements of office space: surfaces, points, objects and circulation.
By deploying this framework as a tool for analysis, the study aims to find new ways to make more effective use of office space for each of the different organisations and provide direction on the settings and environments that might accompany the three generic building types. It also scrutinises the relationship between building type, location and the use of various work settings, as well as working cultures that encourage more effective use of workspace. The aim is to illustrate how workspace can be redesigned over time to suit people's needs and make sure they have a productive experience whenever they choose to go to the office.
This project was carried out in partnership with Bossons Group, GlaxoSmithkline, Herman Miller, and Plantronics.
The house of lies
The House of Lies is the physical manifestation of the virtual spaces of a dream. It arrests the intangible and highlights the physical impossibility of mental spatial constructs (or virtual spaces). As a reflection on digital settings of interaction, it draws parallels with mise-en-scene in film, the literal ‘placing on a stage,’ where sets frame action as a series of moments, or images, without physically hanging together.
Orla Kiely at Topdrawer
A series of traveling cabinet trunks showcase Orla Kiely’s latest homeware.
Working with Orla Kiely and BlissHome, a range of traveling cabinets showcased Orla Kiely’s latest homeware range at TopDrawer London in January 2016. Each cabinet is dedicated to a room in the home - lounge, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. It has shelves on one side and a ‘set’ on the other, showing an arrangement of the latest designs.
Workscapes for Mental Health: Improving a mental health environment
This project uses a new tool to analyse and re-programme workspace to propose improvements to the Mental Health Unit of a large Scottish hospital.
Workscapes is a design framework that uses four urban planning principles - programmable surfaces, landmark objects, points of interest, and circulation/orientation - in conjunction with a qualitative user research process to tailor the design of workspace more closely to people's real needs. It was devised in partnership with an industrial consortium, and in its second year of development, it has been tested on two different types of workspace in Scotland.The first case study proposes a new design strategy for the Mental Health Unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert to accommodate an arts programme. Our Scottish partners identified a series of issues with the newly built unit, which is currently characterised by long, featureless corridors, anonymous spaces for staff and patients, underused therapeutic courtyards and perceived noise issues.
A multi-disciplinary research team from the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design spent a week in the Mental Health Unit in January 2013, observing and mapping processes, auditing various spaces, and conducting interviews and workshops with patients, nursing staff and consultants. Various tensions – between having a clinical or homely environment, for example – were examined.
Application of the Workscapes planning tool resulted in the proposal of a design strategy to help brief designers and artists to make interventions in the Mental Health Unit to create a greater sense of place, as well as offering the opportunity for a range of meaningful activities for patients.
The interventions can be implemented over time and fall into three key categories. Commissioned artworks create recognisable landmarks that can ease wayfinding, enhance the atmosphere of spaces, offer a greater sense of variety across the different wards and help to modify lighting and acoustics.
Original design features can help to create a series of distinct ward identities, such as Fern Valley and Daffodil Fields, and offer more comfort and variety to patients, staff and visitors.
Design modifications to the existing architecture of the unit are aimed at accommodating an extended arts programme for patients. Overall, the design strategy is intended to ensure that the various interventions implemented over time cohere and help to create a richer environment for all who use the Mental Health Unit.
This project was carried out in partnership with NHS Forth Valley.
The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design Symposium 2013: Workscapes