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 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.
Madlove: A landscape of good mental health
The Mad-Landscape explores the architectural model as a spatial manifesto to communicate a range of ideas and spatial principles to support good mental health.
This new commission for the Wellcome Collection’s Beyond Bedlam exhibition (15 Sept 2016 - 15 Jan 2017) is a continuation of the collaboration with artist the vacuum cleaner, producer Hannah Hull and architect James Christian of design studio ProjectsOffice and builds on ideas explored in the immersive Madlove installation at FACT Liverpool, co-designed with James Christian. The model is the next step in the Madlove project and was exhibited alongside illustrations by Rosemary Cunningham that describe Madlove’s collaborative process alongside narrative vignettes into the daily lives of future users.
The ‘landscape of good mental health’ uses the architectural model as a medium to explore and communicate ideas on the spaces that support good mental health care. It imagines a willfully utopian mental health hospital with a diverse range of spaces that offer individual users varying degrees of engagement: from participating in gardening, netball and communal baking, to a puppy play-pen, fishing and a workshop space. The diverse range of spaces allows users to participate, or to observe from the periphery, depending on individual needs and desires. Degrees of privacy are manifested in the topography of the landscape and spaces become more secluded and private going up into the hillsides with a range of nooks overlooking the valley of activity below and the forest of ‘tree-house’ bedrooms.
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 the Bossons Group, GlaxoSmithkline, Herman Miller, and Plantronics.
I have recently completed my PhD in Communication Design at the Royal College of Art in London. This work was supported by the Creative Exchange, an AHRC-funded Knowledge Exchange Hub set up to foster collaboration between creative industry and academia. My practice-led research under the title ‘Framing Privacy’ used architectural representation to better understand interaction in digital spaces, focusing on privacy as an increasingly intangible quality of interaction.
Framing Privacy: Architectural representation in digital spaces
Individual privacy can be compromised in digitally mediated spaces, as networked communication has made scales of interaction and degrees of visibility difficult to grasp. This inquiry argues that privacy is a spatially-conditioned mental construct and tests architectural representation as a means of orienting the individual online through spatial design practice on three scales, from the miniature to the room and the neighbourhood.
Framed by the methodology of architectural representation, privacy online offers the narrative hook and driver for research. This identifies principles underlying architectural practice that can contribute to understandings of digital spaces of interaction, such as online social networking platforms, from the point-of-view of a designer-researcher. The research has been developed under the umbrella of the Creative Exchange, a national AHRC-funded knowledge exchange hub enabling interdisciplinary and inter-organisational collaboration between academia and industry.
Asking how different scales of architectural representation can help to orient the individual in digital spaces, ‘methods of spatialisation’ aim to render tangible and experiential a range of observations of the digital; they result in miniature artifacts, immersive installations and interactive hybrid digital-physical platforms. Through methods of inquiry, including Donald Schön’s methods of reflective practice and the ‘design situation’, these operate as a lens on to the digital. Instead of aiming to reconceptualise privacy itself, it is considered as symptomatic of the challenges brought about by digital spaces, and informs means of evaluation.
The original contribution the research makes to knowledge in the field of design research at the intersection of architecture and communication design lies in adapting architectural representation for digital contexts: it develops approaches rooted in architecture and aims to frame them for interdisciplinary design contexts engaging with digital spaces. The resulting framework brings together the key foundational architectural parameters of scale, distance and time, and three design methods of spatialisation: miniaturisation, immersion and mapping. These help to reframe challenges of digital communication – such as privacy online – from the perspective of the designer-researcher.
Through the practice-led inquiry, digital settings that are not easily grasped intuitively are framed as new contexts for architectural expertise, helping to establish the efficacy of architectural representation in addressing challenges of the digital through reflective design processes.
Urban Design & Masterplanning
I am an architectural and urban designer with over twelve years of professional experience. I have worked on a broad range of urban design and masterplanning projects, spanning the spectrum of project stages, from competition and bid-stage to design, planning and implementation. Most notably, for Fletcher Priest Architects in London, I was a part of the masterplanning team for the design, delivery and coordination of the 27ha Athletes Village for London’s 2012 Olympic Games. The diverse range of aspects of this complex project I was involved with included masterplan design and planning, architects' coordination during delivery stage and production of building studies, as well as landscape, utilities and highways interfacing and coordination. I have further worked on a range of urban design competitions, including the competition-winning design for a new urban centre in Riga. Most recently, I led and coordinated the project team developing a strategic masterplan for a mixed-use new town in Russia.
Group Therapy in Sydney
The design for the second iteration of this exhibition is based on reflective conversations between designer and curator.
The design for Group Therapy at UNSW Galleries in Sydneyis based on my conversations with curator Vanessa Bartlett to reflect on the first Group Therapy exhibition at FACT in Liverpool. The design — based on the idea of ‘walls, windows and corners’ — responds to the need for gallery visitors to be held and contained, as identified by Bartlett. Varying degrees of separation between different areas within the gallery space are intended to enable focus on individual artworks in the group exhibition comprising the work of 14 artists and to avoid ‘information overload’.
A series of walls wind through the exhibition space, providing corners to retreat into and allowing the viewer to dwell. The walls take on a range of roles: from simply defining and separating areas, to acting as projection surfaces, framing views, displaying content in windows and alcoves, and offering the opportunity to sit. The windows respond to new curatorial content introduced in Sydney: a series of head pieces, from the ECT machine to Jennifer Kanary Nikolova’s brain helmet are positioned at head height, framed by the green window reveal.
This second iteration of the exhibition was held at UNSW Galleries in Sydney between 20 September and 11 November 2017 and presented as part of The Big Anxiety: Festival of Arts + Science + People.
Photos by Silversalt.
NHS Forth Valley: Improving a mental health environment
Based on engagement with users of the space, this project develops an art and design strategy for the gradual yet coherent improvement of the Mental Health Unit of a large Scottish hospital.
Putting into practice the design framework emerging from the 'Workscapes' study that uses four urban planning principles in conjunction with a qualitative user research process, this project 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
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
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
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.
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 birch ply cabinet is dedicated to a room in the home — lounge, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom — and features shelves in one half and a ‘set’ in the other. The traveling cabinets are easy to deploy and rearrange, and can travel to a range of sites to show latest designs and products.