In June, we introduced the first strand of our new cultural programme series, City Co-Labs, exploring ways we can collaborate across different making disciplines to co-build the city of the future. We decided to introduce our first strand, Re-Making Place, as the next in our series of Civic Hacks, addressing the big societal issues of our time. Involving makers and a wider public, we aim to investigate the role that design can play in creating clever and radical solutions to the problems facing our modern world.
In partnership with the Northbank BID, our Re-Making Place Civic Hack drew inspiration from the Vision for Strand/Aldwych, their commission for the future pedestrianisation of the area. These local issues became our point of departure to continue a conversation around public urban spaces, in London and beyond.
How can we create new conversations around the use of public space in cities in terms of inclusion, interaction and civic good?
Part of London Festival of Architecture, 28th-30th June, we brought together a range of designers, architects and makers with a diversity of different skills and backgrounds to seek to find their own solutions to this issue.
It kicked off with our Activation Session – a way to inspire our participants with new, radical ideas around design, architecture and place-shaping. We heard from Joanna Turner, Place-Shaping Officer at Westminster City Council reflecting on the Vision for Strand/Aldwych and Nassia Inglessis (Studio INI), engaging with their recent projects challenging our use of urban space. Sam Roots provided his insight as a maker committed towards inclusive design in public space, while Inês Marques provided her perspective as a designer working around sustainable, community-based and place-making initiatives.
Furthermore, Inês was able to give participants advice around what a Civic Hack could lead to, as a member of The Future of Walking, who formulated their concept for a air-filtering shoe during Makerversity’s Air Pollution Civic Hack last year. Following-up on their concept included forming a company from their initial Hack team, and joining Makerversity as Makers with a Mission for a 6-month free residency. As of this year, they are working on their final prototype!
This is particularly exciting given this year’s prize for the Civic Hack: a £1000 cash prize alongside a 6-month Northbank BID residency at Makerversity to develop their concept formulated during the Hack!
The Civic Hack
We embarked upon a weekend of design thinking, prototyping and making facilitated by designer Hefin Jones (Goldsmiths University). Our nine participants were given one day to discuss and brainstorm concepts, then another to working towards a final presentation of their proposal by the end of Sunday.
Our participants drew from their very different skills, from user experience to architecture and product design, to generate different ideas in creative, playful and experimental ways. A visit to Somerset House’s courtyard or a stroll around the Strand, as well as engaging with public space users, shaped their ideas within public space itself. We also benefited from public drop-ins, for participants to receive feedback and opinions from members of the public around their experiences around public space.
This exciting burst of ideas and conversations led to three teams, and three Hack proposals…
Nasra, Jess and Helen re-imagined water’s value as a collective resource with Hydro-Commons . They were inspired by Somerset House’s proximity to the Thames, as well as the way users of Somerset House’s main courtyard interacted with its fountains. How could you require interaction between two people to activate a fountain? Or use a water filtration device to create new community bonds?
Fang, Lea and Zoe’s team creatively re-imagined the idea of a public consultation to focus on non-traditional users of public space. Tree FM rethinks how can could involve trees in public space consultations. Drawing on research showing that trees in a given area form networks to communicate “positive” or “negative” signals on their environment, they want to find ways of conveying these messages to local authorities.
Caring for Carers
Finally, Jheel, Tajwar and Alberta focused in on ways we could improve access to resources in public space for people with caring responsabilities. Caring for Carers explores levels of discomfort and accessibilites for the users of public space who struggle with their needs being heard in the public realm.
Join us for the exhibition of our three proposals in our City Co-Labs: Re-Making Place Exhibition part of London Design Festival, 16th-22nd September! Come find out more about the final proposals, cast your own vote for who you think the winning team should be and…come submit your own Hack solution!
We want to hear your thoughts around public space and the ways you experience it.
Watch this (public) space!
Photography by Gabriela Gesheva