colourful bricks

Kevin Haley introduces the Storytelling Igloo

| Fri 10 Nov 2017

Kevin Haley, co-founder / director of Aberrant Architecture, gives an insight into the development of our upcoming exhibition, The Storytelling Igloo.

We enjoy engaging people in architecture and design, and our participatory form of practice places people at the centre of our projects. With this approach, we have been able to build close relationships with communities in order to deliver a vast array of projects, ranging from interactive architecture, interiors and public art, to exhibitions and art installations. So when artsdepot launched the brief to work in collaboration with five schools in the London Borough of Barnet, we saw this as an excellent opportunity to continue our participatory form of practice.

Our idea was to challenge students from each of the schools to design and make their own papercrete bricks using 3D computer modelling software and CNC moulds created at the University of Westminster’s Fabrication Lab. Once made, all of the bricks (300 in total) will be brought to the Apthorp gallery space at artsdepot and used to build ‘The Storytelling Igloo’ structure. Each brick will have an individual student’s story about their favourite place in their neighbourhood depicted on the surface of the brick. During the design process the students will visit the CNC cutting machine at the fabrication laboratory inside the University of Westminster so that they can gain new insights into the fabrication process.

We have now completed all of the design workshops, where the students drew and modelled, both in clay and on the computer, their designs for their bricks. All of the designs are completely different, capturing how the students like to spend time in their neighbourhoods. From their secret hideouts, to places they like to go with family & friends; we even had some students create designs that imagined new ideas for places they wish existed.

This process has really provided us with an insight into how students and young people experience the city around them. I was quite fascinated in some cases with how they decided to recall their memories of their favourite place in their neighbourhood. It was not just a tree, it was the tree with the excellent branches for climbing. It wasn’t just a set of rubbish bins on a street, but the perfect object for hiding. Through drawing and modelling these ideas I noticed that the students would recall their own kind of order to the city based on criteria quite different from those of adults.

I also learnt that the students have great creative potential to make the most of their surroundings and a strong ability to constantly come up with designs for their own spaces and activities. I therefore couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if these students had actually been a part of the design process for their neighbourhoods they were drawing? Particularly the spaces designed for them such as playgrounds or even the street space immediately outside of the home. Perhaps it would have turned out exactly the same, or just a bit more colourful? We will never know because those spaces have already been built. But what about the design of new playgrounds or streetscapes, should we not include children in the design process so that we can consider the needs, wants and desires of the youngest members of our community? I think that is something worth testing as these students clearly expressed the imagination to create a lively environment that is perhaps far richer and more interesting than the spaces we currently provide for them to play and explore.

Next up we are returning back to the schools to make the bricks with the students, so watch this space and do come to the exhibition so you can see the process and outcome for yourself.

See the Storytelling Igloo at artsdepot from Wed 12 - Sun 31 Dec.

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