Bringing Spaces to Life – Biophilic Spatial Design

Connecting People, Nature and Space

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The project ran in conjunction with Green Week and the Wild Renaturing the City symposium at the London College of Communication.

Year 2 BA (Hons) Spatial Design and BA (Hons) Design Management and Cultures students recently completed a project where, working in small groups, they investigated and transformed a site within the City of London, using design schemes based on biophilic principles. Spatial Design students provided the design for the site transformations and Design Management & Cultures students worked on branding and promoting of the site.

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The aim of the project was to imagine a better future and demonstrate how biophilic principles can bring spaces to life. To improve health and wellbeing by providing a spatial design solution towards the design of an urban interior that reconnects people with the natural world, and to make this space a destination for the general public.

Film by: Claudia, Rebecca, Ola from BA (Hons) Design Management & Cultures with the participation of Nahla, Coco, Anna, Hannah from BA (Hons) Spatial Design.

Visuals of the projects by spatial design students

Film by: Fareeha, Georgia, Ainofrom BA (Hons) Design Management & Cultures with the participation of Alice, Jason, Zahraa, Nisha from BA (Hons) Spatial Design.

Biophilic design

‘Biophilic design is the deliberate attempt to translate an understanding of the inherent human affinity to affiliate with natural systems and processes – known as biophilia’ (Kellert, 2008: 3). Thus, ‘The idea of biophilic design arises from the increasing recognition that the human mind and body evolved in a sensorially rich world, one that continues to be critical of people’s health, productivity, emotional, intellectual and even spiritual wellbeing’ (Kellert, 2008: vii).

Modern building practices promote a model that is often resource intensive and unsustainable, and where the natural world is either neglected, substantially altered, highly controlled, or eradicated altogether.

The prevailing breach between the modern built environment and the natural world has resulted in ‘environmental degradation, and separation of people from natural systems and processes’ (Kellert, 2008: vii). The body becomes alienated from its natural surroundings, both physically and psychologically, resulting in what Professor David Orr describes as ‘a sense of placelessness’ whereby the lack of understanding in ecological processes results in spaces that ‘resonate with no part of our biology, evolutionary experience, or aesthetic sensibilities’ (Orr, 1999: 213).

Designing for the senses – with the RNIB

Collaborative Project – Designing for the Senses: RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People) redesign

Second year students engaged with the RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People) to redesign their lobby and waiting area, in order to make it more appealing to the senses, more inclusive for disabled users and more in line with RNIB’s brand communication.

This video is one of the group responses to the brief, documenting their design process.

 

Collaborative Project – Designing for the Senses: RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People) redesign from BA Spatial Design on Vimeo.

Fresh Air Square evaluation study

Third year students on the BA (Hons) Spatial Design at the London College of Communication are working with Team London Bridge to carry out an evaluation study of Tooley Street Fresh Air Square.

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Bench and spatial design by WMB Studio

Fresh Air Squares is an initiative by Team London Bridge to insert modular micro-parks (parklets) across the London Bridge area to transform 2 car parking spaces into mini green hubs for a period of one week to a year. The objective is to introduce public green spaces into the streetscape, to improve the local environment by making it more place and people focused, and raise awareness of air quality issues.

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In April 2015 Team London Bridge launched a competition to design the first parklet, located in Tooley Street. The project is run in partnership with Transport For London, King’s College London, CJS Plants and Vauxhall One. The winning design, by WMB Studio, incorporates a striking bench seating, specialised plants species to mitigate air pollution, sustainable urban drainage and an air quality monitoring station.

The BA (Hons) Spatial Design at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London) is working in collaboration with team London Bridge to evaluate users’ experience of the Fresh Air Square initiative and how it can inform the provision of future Fresh Air Squares in the area. Students carry out on site primary research to document and evaluate people’s experience of the space. Initial findings show that the design of the parklet is very popular with London Bridge communities.

Inhabiting the Transition Space

We recently ran a project with the 2nd year BA (Hons) Spatial Design at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London) where, in collaboration with South West Trains in Wimbledon station, students were asked to re-examine the way people inhabit a transition space.

As part of the project, students were introduced to research methods instigated by the Course leader, Valerie Mace. Valerie developed methods and techniques that facilitate the documentation of atmospheric qualities in spaces, the intangible world of sensory perceptions and subjective experiences. The objective was to enable designers to conduct sensory driven transformation into a wide range of spaces. The original research project was published in a paper called ‘Sensing the Urban Interior’ and presented at the [in]arch conference at Universitas Indonesia in Depok (Jakarta) in 2014.

This project started with a question:
How can we regenerate spaces by manipulating their atmospheric qualities?

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The project explored the sensory relationships between the intimate space of the body and the interior of a transition space, the ubiquitous train station. Every morning, Monday to Friday, our cities experience an influx of people commuting towards their center to work and reversing their journey to go back home in the evening. This creates a social phenomenon whereby the experience many people have of the city’s urban interiors is transient. This experience is also impersonal as the design of the spaces that facilitate this daily commute is often constrained to performing specific functions such as moving people from A to B, with limited opportunities for people to interact with their surroundings and even less so with each other. So the train station is an interior commuters experience and inhabit on a daily basis yet very little of the design takes into account the way the space affects people, either psychologically or emotionally. Therefore, the objective of the project was to understand how these environments impact on people’s everyday life by exploring and identifying the processes in which sensory experiences are managed and controlled, in order to develop a human centred phenomenological approach to the design process and in doing so, offer innovative solutions that will alter the way people perceive, experience and inhabit these interiors.

So the project invited students to rethink the relationship between body and space in the context of a transition space, provide sensory driven transformations that alter the atmospheric qualities of the interior in a positive way and create a sense of place, thus making the experience of individual and collective journeys a more enjoyable one.

The brief
We used Wimbledon train station as the project site. Students were divided in small study groups and assigned to a specific schedule of visits agreed by the station management. Upon arrival, students met with staff to be briefed on health and safety requirements. Wimbledon station is a small but essential commuting zone in South-West London, with trains to Clapham Junction, Waterloo and London Bridge. It also offers direct access to the London Underground District Line. The interior of the station is designed for a very specific purpose, that of moving between platforms and entry/exit points, waiting for and boarding trains. The singularity of the interior means that people experience enforced boredom and are made to wait for trains in environmentally uncomfortable conditions. Spaces selected for the project are the main ticket hall and platform 9.

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The task was to redesign the space or elements of the space (an intervention) to change and enhance people’s perceptions and experience of the station and of commuting, without obstructing the interior’s primary function and the constrains associated with safety and security within the station’s interior and platforms. For example, staff needs to retain total visibility from one end of the platform to the other and at peak times, the station accommodates a large volume of people moving in different directions. Students also needed to observe South West Trains branding requirements, such as their colour range.

As part of this project students were required to document existing spatial atmospheric conditions within the station in order to establish a set of desired spatial atmospheric conditions that will become the basis for a sensory design intervention. By using the site for primary research, they were able to explore ways to make people feel more positive about their experience and provide opportunities for them to engage with their surroundings. They could, for example, choose to soften the experience through a series of subtle changes, address the issue of waiting and the negative affect of delays, or aim to provide a friendlier environment. Whichever their approach, they needed to keep people moving at all times (no bottlenecks or overcrowding in any single area) and observe safety issues. In other words, this wasn’t a decorating exercise and students needed to provide a solution that considers all aspects of the site.

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The project was structured into 4 stages:

Stage 1: Discover – Students were required to use phenomenological led design research methods to reveal existing spatial atmospheric conditions through the documentation of the interior architecture, materials and their relationships, actual and perceived temperature, objects, movement and time, thresholds and transitions, scale and distances in relation to the body, the light and corresponding shadows.

Stage 2: Define – Students were required to map, analyse and visualise existing spatial atmospheric conditions to understand how the design of the space affects people within it. Then they were able to propose a set of desired spatial atmospheric conditions that formed the basis of the development of design solutions.

Stage 3: Develop – Students generated design proposals using their research, analysis and initial design developments. They visualised and communicated their design proposals through drawings, prototypes and storyboards. They were encouraged to develop their own interpretation of what the design intervention could be although they were required to integrate at least one sensory attribute within its design that wasn’t visual. So the design would be something people can sense and experience in more ways than by just looking at it. It could also be in one place or made of a series of related elements across the site. The proposed design needed to alter the way people feel about being in the station and provide opportunities for alternative behavioural and emotional situations.

Stage 4: Deliver – Students were required to fully map, visualise and realise their design proposal for the project. As well as mapping drawings and diagrams depicting the changes in spatial atmospheric conditions, they needed to demonstrate the positive effect of the changes on behaviour and emotions, and evaluate how their design created a sense of place.

Site-sensory-transformations

At the end of this stage students showcased their work to a review panel while some of the presentations were filmed and included in a short film of the project.

Digital (Dis)connections – Interactive Installation at the Royal Academy London

Students from the BA (Hons) Spatial design year 2 – Calvin Lok, Chin Chin Lam and Aitor Fernandez Hidalgo – took part in the Digital (Dis)connections event at the Royal Academy on Saturday 24th October. This event linked to the Ai Wei Wei exhibition showing at the RA and ‘inspired by Ai Weiwei’s infamous blog and prolific use of social media, [the Royal Academy hosted] an evening of talks, performances, installations and more that challenge our contemporary use of the internet, and imagines future applications of digital technologies.’ (source: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/digital-dis-connections). The project was run in collaboration with the Students Union at UAL and the RCA.

From the designers, Calvin, Chin Chin and Aitor:

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I(WE) AM(ARE) ANONYMOUS , is an interactive video installation that seeks to reveal the duality and complexity of being anonymous. On one hand, there is a freedom and power that cannot be culled, on the other, credibility and responsibility become trivial. The installation will invite users to create content which will be visually broadcast in the exhibition space while in an anonymous state. The installation comes in two parts, creation and propagation.

The creation component is an “anonymous zone” where users can create content under the guise of anonymity. Within the “anonymous zone”, the participant can see outside, but the onlookers will not be able to know who the participant is. This represents the power of anonymity. In this “anonymous zone”, the user will be filmed, but his face will not be shown. This emphasizes the idea of hiding in plain sight through anonymity and the freedom it affords.

In the propagation component, the scene in which the participants will be filmed is as such; an unknown person walks towards a lone keyboard. Their face concealed by a “mirror mask” as they type some words on the keyboard. Subsequently, the person leaves the booth. This scene will be broadcast on the wall opposite the creation component. The “mirrored mask” would have the images of the onlookers reflected upon it, and represents the idea that an individual becomes the collective and the collective is the individual through anonymity, thus both trivializing and empowering their existence. Additionally, as the content will not be filtered, it will reflect the presence or absence of social responsibility and morality once I(WE) AM(ARE) ANONYMOUS.

Process-wise, the following is a recount of the process we had from start to finish:

We started by establishing an idea based on the exhibition brief. After bouncing it back and forth the three of us, we finally decided on one which we really liked(that one above), and then proceeded to elaborate on it. I came up with the initial idea of representing an anonymous state more tangibly. I wanted it to be extremely digital and software based, and the initial idea I had in mind would have had a very plain outcome, but with more interaction. Aitor felt that it was not visually impressive enough, and proposed that we translated it into a physical space. We came up with many ideas after that, from hanging boxes with screens just big enough for your head to fit in to raised platforms with our body visible, but your face hidden. Chin chin proposed much of the visual outcome and communication which culminated in the space shown on the photographs.

When it came to construction, we worked every Monday and Wednesday, from about 10am-6pm over the whole of October. Despite the 4 month long lead we had before the project, our space was only confirmed a month before, as well as some other details which prevented us from moving forward. But with Aitor’s experience in the 3D workshop, construction moved quickly and the resultant booth was constructed in slightly over 1 week. I then refined the software and made it fit our installation while Chin Chin worked on the visual communication of the booth. The last hurdle we had was storage and transport. As it was a large structure, we had to store it in school and then transport it to the RA. Making the structure flat-packable was a really smart decision on our part as we managed to save quite a fair bit of cash on transport.

Lastly, we had to set up for the actual event at the RA. this was more of a challenge than an actual problem as the RA staff were very helpful. We set up the installation in about 3 hours and then proceeded to test it for another 1 hour. Once we were satisfied with the outcome, we packed up, took a break and waited for the event to start.

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The process of making an exhibition

2nd year BA Spatial Design students worked with the 2nd year BA Design Culture Management students to curate, design and build an exhibition showcasing a collection of artefacts from the Cuming Museum. The project was initiated and managed by Dr Nicky Ryan at London College of Communication. The BA Spatial design joined the BA Deign Culture Management in March 2015 although discussions with the Cuming Museum started in January when we wrote a post called After the Fire: Re-imagining the Cuming Museum. The exhibition successfully launched in May 2015 in one of the galleries at LCC and was opened to the public for a week.

Zahra Toolabi, 2nd year student on the BA Spatial Design made a fantastic film that shows the process of making and constructing of the exhibition. The film highlights how well the students worked together as well as the fantastic technical facilities available at LCC. The film shows students working in the 3D workshop, laser cutting area and print studios, and is a great example of how useful these facilities are for spatial design students.

Paris trip winning films

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This post links to a previous post about the first year BA (Hons) Spatial Design students(London College of Communication, University of the Arts London) recent study trip to Paris.

Students were asked to make a 3 minutes film of their experience on the trip. We organised a preview evening at LCC a few weeks after the trip and all students, staff and guests were asked to vote for their favourite film. The films were great and people couldn’t decide so we had 2 winning teams.

Team 1 film by Ieva Symkonyte, Kajsa Lilja, Alice Filello, Ella Haavimb, Natalia Ivanova, Natalie Bondavera, Anais Bonnafous, Chin Chin Lam.

Watch team 1 film

Team 2 film by Zahra Khan, Aitor Fernandes, Emra Mercado ad Shanice Puckering.

Watch team 2 film

The film encapsulates all the details of our visits and samples of Parisian life. The team did a great job in editing the photographs and films they brought back with them. Anyone who has made films before will know that even a 3 minutes film is a lot of work. It is a pleasure to watch and brings back great memories from the trip.

Congratulations to Ieva, Kajsa, Alice, Ella, Natalie, Anais, Chin Chin, Aitor, Zahra, Emra and Shanice on winning the competition.

Clerkenwell Design Week

Last week our “Science without Borders” exchange students from Brazil went to explore what was on offer at ‘Clerkenwell Design Week’. As always there were so many design events and happenings, it proved difficult to know where to start….. So we started in the obvious place – registration at the Farmiloes Building. As well as hosting the latest designs from the furniture and lighting industry, the top floor of the building hosted a series of design ‘conversations’ throughout the three days with speakers from across the design industry sharing their thoughts on current spatial design issues.

See below for some our student highlights of the show

“Beaux is a company who has brought us this innovative material. The panels are constructed in modules and almost any kind of shape and colours can be made. It is a simple idea: it’s a type of hay mixed with powdered concrete and water. The proportions of materials is shown in the picture.”

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“With very basic and simple materials it’s possible to achieve beautiful and creative patterns. This is not the only innovation, there is also in the fire retardant feature, given by the concrete’s inherent properties, and then main characteristic promoted by the company was the soundproof qualities of the panels”

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“The interesting thing about TedWood was their stand. They actually brought their own workstations to the fair. With their tools on hand they gave us the feeling of passion for handmade furniture and how careful they are when making their products. It also gave us a sense of being closer to them, a more intimate feeling, in contrast with some other stands focusing on the luxury sector. Of course, it doesn’t mean they were much cheaper than these. Their products were simple and elegant, mainly with raw materials and this characteristic was well explored with their finishing of the furniture pieces”

Denise Ikuno – Year 2 Spatial Design

Ted Wood's 'workshop'

Ted Wood’s ‘workshop’

“The whole Clerkenwell area was full of design works on the streets and even in the smallest passageways, so on every corner you could discover something unexpected, new and beautiful….”

Camila Rocha Dias Silva – Year 2 Spatial Design

An unexpected find....

An unexpected find….

GX Glass installation by Cousins and Cousins

GX Glass installation on St Johns Square by Cousins and Cousins

Interactive writing walls

A series of drawings on the glass developed throughout the three days

“Lighting the way inside and out” was a great talk. The participants were experts on the subject and at the end gave their tips for places in London to visit with particularly beautiful lighting”

Speakers were Terence Woodgate, Carlotta de Bevilacqua (Artemide) and Keith Bradshaw Principal at Speirs + Major. The discussion focussed on interior, exterior and sculptural lighting, asking how it affects the way we perceive spaces. All speakers highlighted ‘short laser’ as being an exciting new technological development, to follow on from LED

Camila Rocha Dias Silva – Year 2 Spatial Design

Marble light by Terence Woodgate

Solid Carrara marble light by Terence Woodgate  – LED lamps enable a gentle glow

“Prooff are a company focused on workstations for the modern world. They believe that concentration and “isolation” also helps with creativity and efficiency. The workstations are very different from each other and always with a very ergonomic design, thinking deeply about the relationship between the worker’s body and the furniture.

This, for example, is a booth where the user will be standing up in an acoustic “cabin”. In this cabin, he would be able to not be visually and sonorously distracted and can, for example, talk on the phone without distracting his colleagues.”

Denise Ikuno – Year 2 Spatial Design

Proof sound booth

Proof 009 standalone

Cultures of Resilience Exchange

Last week some of our year 2 students had the chance to exhibit their work as part of the UAL Research event Cultures of Resilience Exchange at Well Gallery.

The project, titled Transience and Placemaking in Lewisham, asked the students to propose design interventions that created touch points for interaction between transient and non-transient residents of the London Borough of Lewisham, with the aim of fostering generosity and collaboration. At the beginning of the process the students were led through a series of workshops by design collective Eclective.

The exhibition culminated in a discussion between the students and Professor Ezio Manzini, who initiated the Cultures of Resilience project.

Here are some images of the event: