ReSound project

Year 1 BA Spatial Design students just completed their first live project! They redesigned the interior of the digital space at LCC to enhance the aesthetics while also provide acoustic solutions that enable students and staff using the space to work more comfortably. To help them with the project, we worked with acoustic experts from the South Bank University so this was also a great collaboration between both universities. The results were fantastic and everyone had  a great time!

BA-Spatial-Design-LCC

Staff and students in the digital space have experienced and noted problems with intelligibility and productivity within the space due to insufficient and inadequate acoustic treatment. The digital space is used every day by students as a space where they can work individually and collaboratively and is therefore central to their experience. So the issue of poor acoustics needed to be addressed, to improve health and safety within the space and enhance wellbeing and productivity for its users.

Acoustics considerations include creating barriers to sound, sound absorption, reflecting sound and diffusing sound. So the designs include free standing acoustic panels, wall panels, ceiling tiles, a ceiling or wall feature that could act as a focal point, infill panels for the meeting pods or even furniture or modifications to existing furniture.

Students benefitted from a lecture and presentation on acoustics, with the client and sound experts from London South Bank University (SBU), on Tuesday 13th January in the Street Lecture Theatre at LCC.

In addition to functional and acoustic considerations, proposed solution took into account the visual impact of the design across the space, materials, sustainability, health and safety, longevity, ease of maintenance and cost.

One of the key aspect of the project was sustainability. The client was looking for innovative solutions using reclaimed or recycled materials that had never before been used to develop acoustic solutions. So this ground breaking project will be used as part of a research project at SBU to develop sustainable solutions in acoustics for interior spaces. Selected designs will be tested at the SBU’s acoustic lab and the most suitable solutions will be implemented within the digital space over the Summer. So students will also be able to see their designs realised and implemented within a real space.

Below are a few examples of design explorations and prototypes

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Why do we need primary research in spatial design?

Primary research is a process of documenting and understanding spaces, people and situations from their original source and through personal experiences. Unlike secondary research, which uses other people’s research found in books, magazines and websites as supporting evidence, primary research is about being there and experiencing the space and its occupants for yourself. It’s about immersing yourself in its atmosphere, observing how people behave and interact, finding out about how they feel, learning about the complexity and idiosyncrasies of the environment.

Various methods are available. They are carefully selected depending on the focus of the documentation and the purpose of the design. Irrespective of the method however, it is important for the designer to develop the ability ask questions: who? what? when? why? and how? So when conducting primary research, the designer becomes a curious investigator, looking for clues on site, documenting the space, mapping its environment, listening to people, making connections and noticing things that others would overlook.

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Sketch by Natalia Ivanova, BA Spatial Design student year 1 

Techniques vary depending on the focus of the investigation. On the BA Spatial Design, students are first introduced to primary research techniques through a series of workshops. One of them encourages students to consider place making and identity through the study of London riverscape and cityscape. In order to do this, we take them on a boat trip, from Embankment to Greenwich, and ask them to identify and capture the uniqueness of the urban landscape and the elements that imbue the cityscape with a distinctive sense of place. The objective is to capture these characteristics through a series of drawings while travelling form East to West and back.

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Sketches by BA Spatial Design students year 1

Another workshop requires students to consider the different types of users in Spitalfield market, record and reflect on people’s movement, levels of interaction within the space. We also take students to the South Bank and ask them to consider the interior of the Royal Festival Hall as a curated spatial environment and, using drawings and mapping techniques, explore and documents this multi-layered and multi-experiential interior and its organisation.

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Sketches by BA Spatial Design students year 1

Developing a sound knowledge of a space and its characteristics is important but insufficient on its own because spaces are designed for and used by people. Therefore, students are also introduced to interview and survey techniques as a mean to find useful and relevant information directly from the people who are using the space. Beyond the survey, we also borrow from other disciplines such as service design, a practice that focusses on designing for people and often also with people. So, as part of their primary research, students are introduced to co-design techniques such as storytelling and character profile.

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Sketchbook by Natalia Ivanova, BA Spatial Design student year 1 

Another important aspect of primary research taught on the course are techniques used to document, capture even, the more elusive attributes of space, its atmosphere and our sensory perceptions. Atmosphere is intangible and our perceptions are often subjective yet they are essential components of space. The atmosphere of a space affects the way we feel and consequently, our emotions and sense of belonging. In order to construct atmosphere and manipulate sensory perceptions, it is important to understand them and so, to develop the ability to document them.

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Sketches from various BA Spatial Design students year 1

Students on the BA Spatial Design are taught a rich palette of methods and tools that enable them to fully immerse themselves in the environment they are designing in, understand the context they are working with, connect with the people they are designing for and develop a sustainable and inclusive approach to spatial design. No matter what kind of space they are designing, effective primary research enables spatial designers to create positive and meaningful experiences for people, foster a sense of belonging, human attachment and scenarios that will enable occupants to imbue the space with meaning. The way spaces are designed affect the way we interact, behave, work, play, learn; the way we feel, the way we live and even our health. As Iain Borden, Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, underlined at the 2011 Royal Academy Forum “Spaces of Memory”, “we make space and space makes us” (Bartlett UCL, 2011, 1:15 [Video file]) and so it is essential for students of spatial design to develop into perceptive, mindful and thoughtful designers, and this is why primary research is so important.

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 Primary research intervention by Kajsa Lilja, BA Spatial Design year 1 student

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Primary research intervention by Wenjing Luo, BA Spatial Design year 1 student

Greenwich drawing trip

Monday 14th of October, we took the BA (Hons) Spatial Design students at LCC on a sketching trip to Greenwich. We started our journey at Embankment where we took a boat to take us to Greenwich, then our first stop was the Cutty Sark, followed by Greenwich market and through the park to the Royal Observatory and the fabulous view of London. Students learned to draw time, movement and scale, the rain waited nicely until we got home and everyone had a wonderful time. A great way to start the week!

Spatial design drawing in the digital age

In the 19th century John Ruskin and William Morris were critical of the formalisation of the architectural education because architects removed themselves from the process of making and as drawing became its accepted language, the value of a project was judged more on the merit of the drawing than its design.

The debate continues…The Art of Drawing

Below is a short paper I wrote on the subject back in 2009. I presented it at a symposium at London College of Communication.

Design drawing education in the digital age

Valerie Mace (LCC 2009)

Over the last 15 years, the advent of personal computers and the development of CAD software have precipitated a polarisation of skills in architectural and interior design drawing and visualisation. It could even be alleged that it created two distinct camps, those against and those in favour of using computers.

In this paper I briefly underline the fundamentals of design drawings and visualisation as well as the role of sketching in the digital age from a students centred perspective. I also reason that a rise in computer use doesn’t automatically lead to a drop in design quality and that the ideal outcome is for both methods to coexist alongside each other.

In the advent of computers, students learnt to draw 2D and 3D projections as well as measured perspective in order to communicate their design intent. These drawings were an art form in their own right and took considerable time and effort to perfect.

Being able to draw however doesn’t make an architect or designer. In the early 1900’s principles of draftmanship came under attack from architects such as John Ruskin and William Morris. They argued that architecture was too often judged on the quality of the drawing, not the merit of the design. Today similar claims are being made in the educational debate between hand drawing and digital drawing where, in the words of Davis Clews, ‘one form of production is placed in opposition to another’.

When computers entered the scene, they were bulky unsightly boxes with complex and awkward design software to match. It isn’t difficult to see why initially only the most enthusiastic found any interest in their use as design and visualisation tools. However, with more advanced developments in computer systems and a rise in affordable yet sophisticated design software, computers began to take over.

In architecture software such as Autocad lead the way. The technical nature of orthogonal projections and the level of precision required was consistent with computer technology and today all architects and working drawings are produced using some form of CAD software. So far so good although as a result, students often perceive CAD as an essential skill towards employability, to the detriment of sketching and drawing.

This notion snowballs into the field of 3D visualisation where the polarisation of skills becomes more endemic. Students, dazzled by the prospects offered by the software and their new found skills, often discard drawing and sketching as an irrelevant and tedious process and hide a lack of design acumen behind a false sense of achievement offered by computer visuals.

So making a parallel with John Ruskin and William Morris, the drawback of using computers is that students may only judge their work on the quality of the drawing, not the merit of the design. The problem is compounded by the fact that as with drawing, digital visualisation requires considerable time and effort to perfect so early outcomes are often clumsy and fail to impress anyone but the student.

Sketching on the other hand is quick, informal and looked upon by the majority of teachers and practitioners as an integral part of the design process. It is the universal language of design development and no self-respecting architect or designer would be seen leaving the comfort of their studio without a notebook and pencil. Failing that they could always rely on the availability of a trustee napkin.

Sketching is perceived as critical because it enables students to learn about the world around them, taking time to observe and reflect. It also enables them to visually articulate their ideas, to themselves and others. Sketches don’t have to be work of arts but to convey ideas and provide a platform to focus the design and develop sound concepts.

Losing the ability to sketch produces, according to Peter Eisenman, passive architects (and designers). Such passive attitudes concede to the software considerable ownership of the design process and design intent, with obvious adverse consequences to the development of emerging designers. In my experience, it isn’t uncommon for students to abandon an idea simply because they didn’t know how to draw it digitally. Those who rely too much on computers for their design concepts and don’t possess sufficient knowledge of the software limit themselves to what they can draw, leading to weak and inappropriate design solutions.

It doesn’t mean that computers shouldn’t be part of design education. Many design software are now industry standard and when used effectively, they do provide considerable advantages. They offer substantial prospects for exploration and experimentation in a virtual world. They facilitate seamless workflows and make the revision process easier and faster. They can replicate realistic lighting conditions and textures. In some cases they can even test structures and weather conditions. Without computers and software some of the more innovative architecture and design to emerge in the last 10 years wouldn’t exist.

CAD software can also be used as design development tools to test and experiment in the same way as traditional model making does. They can be used to produce quick floor plans or perspectives to work as underlay for sketches or even presentation drawings, facilitating the design process. In addition, software manufacturers have developed more intuitive processes and enable users to emulate a variety of sketch styles, aiming to bridge the gap between the flexibility of work in progress and the rigid nature of the outcome often associated with digital drawing.

However, no matter how sophisticated the software, a computer is a machine and a machine can only do what we tell it to do. So although initially the issue may have been with the machine and its limitations, as it becomes more advanced, it is shifting towards users and their limitations. As I previously commented upon, a machine is only as good as its user.

Which is why learning how to visualise creative ideas should still be at the heart of design education and sketching instrumental to the design process. To enable students to develop critical design visualisation skills and gain confidence in their ability as designers while computer visualisation software will enable them to push the boundaries of 3D exploration.

Drawing and computers are therefore not mutually exclusive. They complement each other, they are integral to the design process and indispensable constituents of the designer’s tool kit. Each have their own strengths. Used together and appropriately they are a catalyst for strong design solutions and visual outcomes with soul and personality.

References

Porter T. (1997) The architect’s eye, Taylor & Francis

Eisenman P. & Spiler N. (2008) Debate. Have computers damaged architect’s design quality, Design  Week

Clews D. (2007) Visual. Overview, Report on the 2nd Art Design Media Subject Centre Annual Forum

Interior design drawing education in the digital age

Interior design drawing education in the digital age by Valerie Mace 
I originally presented this short paper at a Spatial Communication programme symposium at London College of Communication

Design process visuals

Example of mixed media spatial design development visualisation. From left to right: sketch drawing, CAD, card model, digital visual, hand drawing with collage. 

Over the last 20 years, the advent of personal computers and the development of CAD software have precipitated a polarisation of skills in architectural and interior design drawing and visualisation. It could even be alleged that it created two distinct camps, those against and those in favour of using computers.

In this paper I briefly underline the fundamentals of design drawings and visualisation as well as the role of sketching in the digital age from a students centred perspective. I also reason that a rise in computer use doesn’t automatically lead to a drop in design quality and that the ideal outcome is for both methods to coexist alongside each other.
In the advent of computers, students learnt to draw 2D and 3D projections as well as measured perspective in order to communicate their design intent. These drawings were an art form in their own right and took considerable time and effort to perfect.

Being able to draw however doesn’t make an architect or designer. In the early 1900’s principles of draftmanship came under attack from architects such as John Ruskin and William Morris. They argued that architecture was too often judged on the quality of the drawing, not the merit of the design.

Today similar claims are being made in the educational debate between hand drawing and digital drawing where, in the words of Davis Clews, ‘one form of production, say manual, is placed in opposition to another, say digital’1.

When computers entered the scene, they were bulky unsightly boxes with complex and awkward design software to match. It isn’t difficult to see why initially only the most enthusiastic found any interest in their use as design and visualisation tools. However, with more advanced developments in computer systems and a rise in affordable yet sophisticated design software, computers began to take over.

In architecture software such as Autocad lead the way. The technical nature of orthogonal projections and the level of precision required was consistent with computer technology and today all architects and working drawings are produced using some form of CAD software. So far so good although as a result, students often perceive CAD as an essential skill towards employability, to the detriment of sketching and drawing.

This notion snowballs into the field of 3D visualisation where the polarisation of skills becomes more endemic. Students, dazzled by the prospects offered by the software and their new found skills, often discard drawing and sketching as an irrelevant and tedious process and hide a lack of design acumen behind a false sense of achievement offered by computer visuals.

So making a parallel with John Ruskin and William Morris, the drawback of using computers is that students may only judge their work on the quality of the drawing, not the merit of the design. The problem is compounded by the fact that as with drawing, digital visualisation requires considerable time and effort to perfect so early outcomes are often clumsy and fail to impress anyone but the student.

Sketching on the other hand is quick, informal and looked upon by the majority of teachers and practitioners as an integral part of the design process. It is the universal language of design development and no self-respecting architect or designer would be seen leaving the comfort of their studio without a notebook and pencil. Failing that they could always rely on the availability of a trustee napkin.

Sketching is perceived as critical because it enables students to learn about the world around them, taking time to observe and reflect. It also enables them to visually articulate their ideas, to themselves and others. Sketches don’t have to be works of art but to convey ideas and provide a platform to focus the design and develop sound concepts.

Losing the ability to sketch produces, according to Peter Eisenman, passive architects (and designers). Such passive attitudes concede to the software considerable ownership of the design process and design intent, with obvious adverse consequences to the development of emerging designers. In my experience, it isn’t uncommon for students to abandon an idea simply because they didn’t know how to draw it digitally. Those who rely too much on computers for their design concepts and don’t possess sufficient knowledge of the software limit themselves to what they can draw, leading to weak and inappropriate design solutions.

It doesn’t mean that computers shouldn’t be part of design education. Many design software are now industry standard and when used effectively, they do provide considerable advantages. They offer substantial prospects for exploration and experimentation in a virtual world. They facilitate seamless workflows and make the revision process easier and faster. They can replicate realistic lighting conditions and textures. In some cases they can even test structures and weather conditions. Without computers and software some of the more innovative architecture and design to emerge in the last 10 to 15 years wouldn’t exist.

CAD software can also be used as design development tools to test and experiment in the same way as traditional model making does. They can be used to produce quick floor plans or perspectives to work as underlay for sketches or even presentation drawings, facilitating the design process. In addition, software manufacturers have developed more intuitive processes and enable users to emulate a variety of sketch styles, aiming to bridge the gap between the flexibility of work in progress and the rigid nature of the outcome often associated with digital drawing.

However, no matter how sophisticated the software, a computer is a machine and a machine can only do what we tell it to do. So although initially the issue may have been with the machine and its limitations, as it becomes more advanced, it is shifting towards users and their limitations. As I previously commented upon, a machine is only as good as its user.

Which is why learning how to visualise creative ideas should still be at the heart of design education and sketching instrumental to the design process. To enable students to develop critical design visualisation skills and gain confidence in their ability as designers while computer visualisation software will enable them to push the boundaries of 3D exploration.

Drawing and computers are therefore not mutually exclusive. They complement each other, they are integral to the design process and indispensable constituents of the designer’s tool kit. Each have their own strengths. Used together and appropriately they are a catalyst for strong design solutions and visual outcomes with soul and personality.

References

Porter T. (1997) The architect’s eye, Taylor & Francis

Eisenman P. & Spiller N. (2008) Have computers damaged architects’ design quality? [Last visited 29 December 2012]

Visual. Report on the 2nd Art Design Media Subject Centre Annual Forum (2007) <http://adm-hea.brighton.ac.uk/library/files/resources/visual-pdf.pdf> [Last visited 29 December 2012]