Second Draft: Soren sat and watched the sun going down through the West wall of his childhood home. Most of the lime render that once coated the inside walls lay in pieces on the floor, caustic dust catching the back of the throat with each breath. The insulation that once filled the wall now forms a powdery black mat in the bottom of each brick, having long since decayed into flakes of dead plant matter. The setting sun filled the empty room with an amber glow, and despite its poor state of repair, Soren though it was quite beautiful. He could imagine that if his mother could see this, she would have forgone the lime render and insulative properties of the foamed algae that used to fill the walls. The cold would have been a small price to pay for such beauty.
Soren watched as points of light bled across the swooping lines that formed the walls of the house. On the far wall he can see the book shelves which his parent hand carved when he was a child. He remembers with great clarity the day his mother danced the house into existence. They had left their costal home and took the EV to the site of their new home. When they arrived, the designer, Elise maybe, had already set up MoCap equipment - three tripods as well as two speakers, all positioned at the edge of the plot of land. Soren’s father had spent every evening the previous week at the clearing removing leaves and twigs, levelling small mounds and filling in troughs.
Soren had known that the day was going to be special as soon as he saw his mother wearing one of her dancing dresses. This was the only time he ever saw her wear a dress when she wasn’t on the way to, or coming back from the dance class that she taught at weekends. As well as the dress she had also taken her hand made Argentinian dancing shoes, but had not been able to wear them on the day. Despite his fathers hard work, the ground was just too soft and uneven for high heels.
In the weeks preceding, Soren’s mother had spent many hours practicing the moves that would become their home. Soren’s father had watched the piece and studied the subsequent forms, and together they created a space that they felt they could inhabit. At the time, fabbing was still relatively new - the possibilities seemed endless. Many people started creating site specific dwellings, some with little thought, simply pacing out a floor plan and letting expert systems create the rest. Others took their time, working out how to imbue their home with as much of their character as possible. For Soren’s family, the means of creation were obvious.
Soren’s mother had looked odd in her flowing dress and trail shoes. Anticipating the inappropriateness of her Argentinean heels, she had practiced the piece in her running shoes until she felt sure that she could preform the movements as effortlessly as on the dance floor. Soren and his father sat on a log in the lightly wooded space beside the river, and watched his mother talking to the designer. The designer then left and walked over to one of the tripods. Music began to fill the clearing, and after a few moments making sure she was in the right spot, Soren’s mother lifted her arms into the air and began the pieces. She flowed anti-clockwise around the clearing, ducking, swooping and pirouetting. It was clear that their new home would not to have ‘sides’ as such. Their new dwelling would be a curved space without end.
As the music reached a crescendo and Soren’s mother neared full circle, a startled wood pigeon tool flight through the clearing. The shape it created as it punched through the still imaginary North wall was chosen as one of the bathroom window. When she had finished, Soren’s mother and father spent the next hour moving around the space with the designer, pointing and pulling at invisible objects. Despite his young age, Soren knew they were working together in virtual space. Whenever he saw adults making silly hand gestures, reaching for things that weren’t there and mumbling to themselves, they where usually wearing glass. Virtual space was always the explanation.
After what seemed like an age Soren’s mother called for him to join them. The designer had moved over to one of the tripods, and Soren was asked to stand with his mother and father in different places in the clearing. He had felt like he was having his photograph taken by an elderly relative. And now, thirty years later, he sat watching shadows trace the inset form of his mother and father and his eight year old self in the West wall of his family home.
Soren had seen the house grow brick by glass brick over the months since the woodland dance. Sometimes he and his father rode out to the fabbing farm on the coast to pick up bricks when they were ready. The farm took sand from the beach and fused the bricks into shape with sunlight - ‘Smoke and mirrors and bloody big lenses’ as his father used to say. If it had been sunny there could be as many as ten bricks to collect, each one individually numbered, each one a different shape. They would ride to the clearing with the bricks and his farther would collect water from the river and make lime cement. Together they would lay them in the sequence in which they were created, week after week until the house looked like the virtual version his mother had shown him on the day of the dance.
The house had been empty for five years. Soren’s mother had passed away in her early fifties. His father had eventually remarried and now lived in France. Soren had a family of his own back down at the coast. They had used the house from time to time but it reminded him so intensely of his mother he couldn’t bare it. He missed her so much.
The plot had been sold to two young teachers from a nearby village. And so the cycle started again. The couple wanted to create their own dwelling, and would use the silica of Soren’s family home to achieve this. Soren knew this was the right thing to do. And anyway, few families wanted to live in a spaces so saturated with the character of the previous owners.
The fashion for danced houses passed relatively quickly, a phenomena of the novelty fabbing offered. Dwelling quite quickly drifted back to being boxlike, albeit with incredible material and energy efficiencies. Soren’s current house needed no heating for all but the coldest days of the year, and all of the plumbing was created as the same time the house was printed. They were also much easier to sell.
The house was due to be recycled tomorrow. A water powered grinder had been set up by the river; each brick would be taken and ground back into sand ready for re-fabrication. Soren sat and watching the sun go down and wondered what the young couple would create to in place of the house the house he grew up in. But as the light faded, he knew he would never return to see it. He didn’t want anything to replace the memory of the danced house.
Today I spent an hour or so tweaking, and adding too, a story about somebody building a house using additive manufacturing technology, solar energy, and sand. Interspersed with the writing, I kept feeling the need to sketch out some of my ideas. I hate using labels but I probably am a ‘visual thinker’ and so it would seem that act of sketching has become an indispensable part of the creative process for me.
Through this combination of writing and sketching I arrived at a ‘design’ for the house that I doubt I would have reached had the two processes not informed each other. The writing process, and especially the ‘revisiting’ of the story over a couple of days, did allow the ‘design’ ideas embedded within the story to grow in richness and detail. Whilst the sketching process allowed for a validation of these ideas that, to my mind, could only taken shape in the visual realm. I have long thought, and not uniquely, that sketching could be considered as the designer having a conversation with herself in a familiar solution space; that of A5 pad and pen (inset preferred media here).
Anyway, this is a rambling way of explaining that I will not be posting the original story, which was rather technology and information heavy, but will instead be posting the much more inspirational and ‘story lead’ version which resulted from the combined approach explained above. As a side note, if I wasn’t shortly leaving the employment of Northumbria University, I would have liked to carry out some research with the students in order to analyse outcomes resulting from different concept generation approaches; fiction, sketching, and a mixture of both.
I snagged one of these a couple of weeks ago and there really are wonderful. Why am I blogging this? The sound that comes out of this little speaker is so good that it could replace all but the biggest hi-fi set-ups (as i intend to do). It is infinitely portable and wireless - I use it wherever I need sound, in the home or on the move.
It is a great ‘dematerialization’ product: multiple uses, mobile, and small (resource efficient). A real leap forward. It is also customizable - there are some UI niggles but there is a chance that Jawbone will iron them out if we let them know what they are.
Lets just hope news starts to appear about Jawbones commitment to replacing the battery…
Deleuze seems to crop up in a lot of really interesting work in the field of art and design. His philosophy has informed work that pushes the boundaries of the role of design in society and has inspired design to be used as critical practice.
Recently I read a book ‘Ordinary Affects’ that seemed again to draw heavily on Deleuze. Upon finishing the book I felt that I hadn’t fully understood what the author (Kathleen Stewart) was trying to do, but that I would have if I had been more familiar with Deleuze. Kathleen referenced a book about the work of Deleuze on several occasions. The University library had a copy (The Deleuze Connections by John Rajchman) so I am now reading it.
Sleeve notes for Rajchman’s book note that Deleuze’s texts are notoriously difficult and that Rajchman makes Deleuze easier to understand. That is as may be but I am still finding it difficult. The terminology is unfamiliar - hermeneutics, immanence and essentialist - are concepts that I need to brush up on as I progress. I never use these words at all in day to day life which makes it difficult to retain their meaning. Despite this, I still feel that there will be benefit in persevering with the text.
Sarah Birkett discovered through her PhD research that:
‘the language that designers use to articulate the scope of responsibility and ethics becomes broader, richer and more abstract with professional maturity’.
This has got me thinking about the effects of ethical maturity on the designer in terms of their continued engagement in the process of design. Not everybody can re-direct their practice towards more responsible outcomes. There must be design practitioners who find themselves increasingly at odds with the decisions they must make as a result of ongoing ethical maturity. It would be interesting to find out if there has ever been a study to identify practitioners whom managed to extract themselves from roles that they could no longer justify ethically and moved on to use their skills in a more fulfilling or less dissonant way? Would one find similarities amongst such individuals? Did they employ similar tactics? Was it ultimately a positive thing for them to do?
Research in this area could lead to a web based tool-kit that could help an individual work through their ethical dilemmas and offer strategies for creating change or ultimately re-direction of their careers. It would be great to explore this further…
Elizabeth Sanders from make-tools gave a talk about how she uses prototyping as a participatory activity in the design process. She started her talk by laying out the challenges (as she sees them: global, environmental) facing mankind in the future. The point of this seemed to be to highlight the differing nature of these challenges compared with those faced by mankind in the recent past.
These new challenges seem to be the motivation for the development of new design tools. She made this point by listing traditional areas of design and emerging areas of design:
‘old’ traditional design disciplines:
visual communication design
interior space design
‘new’ emerging design disciplines
design for experience
design for service
design for innovation
design for transformation
design for sustainability
These changes in the nature of design problems require a shift from the studio to the real world and from being concerned with the needs of the individual to the needs of the collective.
Sanders talked about ‘making sense of the idea’ as a transformation from object to purpose, invention to intention and from application to implication - The latter being attributed to Dunne.
A graphic was introduced that represented the design process as a complex activity that, through the application of a design process, moved from ‘idea’ to an understandable ‘solution’. On to this she mapped co-design activities and explained the traditional use of co-design, i.e., consultation with users at the front end of the design process, followed by a period of evaluation and development of an design outcome.
“Design is an inquiry into the future situation of use.”
In her work sanders uses prototyping as a participatory activity. Saunders introduced her participatory prototyping cycle: make-enact-tell. It is worth mentioning here that these three activities can be performed in any order depending on the context they are used in.
“it is only through collective thinking and acting that we will be able to use design to address the social issues we face today”
“we know what it looks like to use prototypes to help us see the future. But what dose it mean to use prototyping to make sense of the future?”
The latter part of the talk consisted of example of the make-enact-tell method of participatory design. I intend to write this up properly in order to give an indication as to when and how these design methods can be used.