A FOREST OF STORIES

A thriving forest grows from and supports a myriad of living systems and life forms.

In our MA Narrative Environments final show we have constructed an ‘architectural forest’ from 52 sustainably sourced trees. The forest holds our 27 projects, it is an environment constructed for storytelling.

Subverting the conventions of the ‘white cube’ gallery space, this show connects the diverse projects creating an overall narrative that expresses the identity of this particular year.

The work displayed responds to a growing demand for creatives who are able to collaborate in multi-disciplinary teams and multicultural environments, branching out into different arenas, across commercial, urban and cultural sectors. As each project grows and blooms it simultaneously shapes the forest and the practice of the people within it.


Photos by Dee Ramadan

THE COURSE

MA Narrative Environments pioneers collaborative practice among architects, communication designers, curators an design managers.

Students work in multidisciplinary teams to create visitor experiences for cultural venues, visitor centres, exhibitions, museums, historic sites, entertainment venues, educational environments, sports events, shopping experiences, branded environments, corporate events, product launches and urban and community environments.

The course is based on the premise that narrative is a fundamental and accessible way for people to make sense of places. Stories are implicit in the materials, structures, images, signs, sequences and uses of a space. Design can create, alter, add or subtract narratives from environments by integrating artifacts, text, sound, images, film and digital interfaces into the physical world. Environments are explored and developed through at least three dimensions: firstly, hard physical structures, materials and form, which tend to remain fairly fixed over time; secondly, text, light, image and sound which can change quite rapidly; and thirdly, the soft and most unpredictable dimension, human presence and interaction. Students analyse these dimensions in some depth, using practice-based design research methods and participatory research methods, spatial and narrative theory. Proposals are developed through an iterative design process. Students visualize the look and feel of the environment and when possible build and test the design with real audiences and residents.

A broad understanding of story, location, client and visitor and residents expectations drives novel, multisensory, user-centered and user-driven proposals. Stories are used in at least four ways: firstly, people’s stories are gathered as part of the research process; secondly, narrative scenarios are invented to trigger new ideas; thirdly, narrative structures such as ‘the Hero’s Journey’ are used to unfold the space; and finally, platforms are created for people to share and exchange their own stories.

The methods and approaches on the course provide an open forum for debate among students, academics and practitioners.