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).

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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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.

Gothenburg University

A recent trip to HDK, Gothenburg University school of design, to set up an Erasmus exchange for the BA Spatial Design students proved very interesting and successful.

Tutors and staff at the school were very friendly (as were people in Gothenburg) and there’s a great atmosphere with very good facilities.

Gothenburg is a lovely coastal city in Sweden and because it’s close to the Gulf Stream, it never gets too cold in Winter. The weather was fabulous when I was there so I had plenty of opportunities to discover the city centre where the school is also located.

I was only there for a couple of days but hope to return and of course to facilitate Erasmus exchanges for our students.

Spatial design taster workshops

The BA Spatial Design runs a series of taster workshops for applicants to the course or those who are thinking about applying. This is a great opportunity for everyone to meet, find out more about Spatial Design and have fun while learning new skills and practice design in a friendly environment. The workshops are run by LCC Spatial Design tutors and we sometimes also invite existing Spatial Design students to contribute.

These images show the work from the latest workshop where participants were able to discover how to make amazing patterns with Sue Westergaard and wonderful 3D models with Julie James. It’s great to see what people were able to make in only 2 hours!

For the latest information on the Spatial Design taster workshops, contact Course Leaders Valerie Mace (v.mace@lcc.arts.ac.uk) and Silvia Grimaldi (s.grimaldi@lcc.arts.ac.uk).

Valerie Mace’s thoughts on BA Spatial Design

Valerie Mace wrote an interesting blog post about BA Spatial Design. Here is an extract below:

In recent years I have found it increasingly difficult to define myself as an interior designer simply because the nature of my work is so much more complex and ‘undisciplinary’. I can say with certainty that I work with spaces but projects (and clients) today demand highly sophisticated creative practices which straddle ground and relationships between interiors, surfaces, products, graphics, architecture, environment, art, communication, technology and psychology. We are talking about spaces designed for people with all the wonderful complexities that it entails. I believe working in design has never been more exciting.

So this is what I’m experiencing as a practitioner but what about people who are about to embark on a career in design? I’m fortunate as a university lecturer to be working within the dynamic and innovative Spatial Communication programme at London College of Communication. We have been given the opportunity to redesign our portfolio and provide our students with an advanced learning programme that addresses the intricacies of today’s design industries in a stimulating and inspiring style.

read more here: http://www.valeriemace.co.uk/blog0/spatial-design