Every pattern has a story to tell – Part 3

I have left until last some of the most innovative and exciting (to me at least) presenters and projects from the Narrative in Design symposium last Saturday.

First up, Matt Wade who as part of kin-design will be turning the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry into an amazing interactive experience. Featuring interactive booths (at which you can record your vox pop story of Manchester), credit card readers and uploading to associated website, just watch this amazing video and imagine the excitement for both young and old visitors to see themselves become part of the exhibits. I liked the way Matt described his company as “taking a chaotic approach” to meeting the needs of “complex chaotic clients”.

Caf Fean of Soundings took us through some of her urban regeneration work and I was particularly taken about a project to map peoples histories. She told us how people will often reject talking about change but will gladly share their memories. By laying out an outline of the buildings of an area near Barking she wrote out in the specific locations each anecdotal memory allowing the viewer to traverse the landscape while absorbing some of “the identity already there”. It reminded me of those Pete Frame Rock family trees and seemed a nice ‘low tech’ way to begin to engage with residents.

On a similar tack, Kelsey Snook and Melissa Mongiat from Livingwithourtime.com rushed us through a series of examples of their work exploring narrative environments and connectedness. Some smile inducing tag lines like

The Good conspiracy – Contaminating the city with good – Montreal 2009

When people have participated you can feel it in the bricks

My favourite of theirs, which I believe might work well in an organisational/conference setting (watch out KMUK2011) was their MUSÉE DES POSSIBLES (Museum of Possibilities) designed to engage locals and visitors with a new public space in Montreal. Visual, engaging and vibrant it is a prime example of a simple idea excellently executed.

Finally the duo of Je Ahn and Maria Smith  who together form Studio Weave took us through their terrific example of how they have used story as part of architectural design and development.

This session alone rekindled in me the power of ‘storytelling with a purpose’, to engage, inspire and connect the listener with the environment.

Starting out with the “man made – fictional environment” that is Kielder forest and Kielder water in Northumberland (where I used to go camping as a child and whose physical geology I studies as a graduate) they were commisioned to design and build ‘two small shelters’. Before beginning the design they imagined a fictional story that would explain the situation within the current landscape.

They came up with ‘Freya and Robin’ which you must read in its entirety here 

So she had a cabin and he had a hut and it has become the story that has stuck in my head from the conference. You just know that the story was embedded and entangled into the project when the engineers said that the materials weren’t good enough as “Freya wouldn’t want that”.

Brilliant and inspiring use of archetypes (I guess ‘archetypal sense of belongings, as Robin and Freya are not present) , not of the client or the contractor but of the architecture and landscape itself.

Freya's cabin


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