Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Summer Placement

For the month of June, I took part in a summer placement through in Glasgow with icecream architecture. It was based in The Lighthouse, Glasgow and we completed a 'research by doing' project, which looked at redeveloping Custom Quay Gardens on the River Clyde.
During the duration of the project we met and worked with a number of people including council representatives, architects and designers and received presentations on the VeloCity project which helped us work towards improving a run down area of Glasgow in preparation for the Commonwealth games.
We also worked with MAKLAB, Glasgow's digital and fabrication studio, learning new knowledge of the software and equipment they use.

In response to the issues we discovered it became apparent that hardly any community members went down to the site to stay - merely passing through. Mainly this was due to them feeling uncomfortable as the place was known as a loitering area for drug users. Through branding and changing the identity of the area we thought this would reinforce the site as a place in the minds of visitors and hopefully give them a sense of purpose to be there. Our identity colour for custom quay was red that was inspired by the red steel on the pedestrian and rail bridge in the close proximity to our site. The Custom quay logo is an abstraction of the site itself which further specifies the branding of the site. We used red balloons to announce the pre torch party and to display a celebratory aspect of our project.

Each week we had small interventions as a way of making the issues visual on site. The first week we highlighted the usable seats among the broken ones by painting them our identity colour red. By doing this we were publicly displaying information to the community what seats were safe to use. Not only that but it was a way for us to announce the presence of this project on site and it was visible from both sides of the river.

As a result of us painting the seats people started to stop and ask us what we were doing which more often than not ended up in an engaging conversation suggesting what they would like on site or what it used to be. Using the history of the site and how it was used previously as inspiration for the way forward, we envisaged a flavour of this being brought back through a programme of creative activities as performances onsite engaging with the community.

Another intervention was the planting of fresh new flowers in the cracks of broken paving and in the neglected flower beds.
 This was conducted as a poetic gesture inspired by the gathering of people at the green spaces. From speaking to community members on site who were looking for more flowers and colour - we felt a good way to quickly address the issue and responses was to plant some in the neglected flower beds where evidence shows there may used to have been some, and some in the areas where maintenance is rarely looked at and potentially causing danger to users. We also wanted to use this intervention as a means of accessing the vandalism in the area - would they be respected and appreciated or would they end up torn out?
We gathered that there was a potential need for more vibrancy and vegetation on site but it would need maintained fairly frequently as does the paving for the safety of users and for the overall atmosphere.
We found there to be a lack of visual connection between the different levels of the site and other important spaces and routes, thus resulting in people not occupying the site. Because you can't see the differing levels due to thick high walls it becomes uninviting, but we think that with sufficient and relevant signposting advertising the space or various performances it would reposition this site on the map.

Along the site there is traces of river facing bars cafes and nightclubs which are now boarded up. We marked out the commercial and social spectres of the past and potential future. The bricks alone are a very subtle trace of what once was. Our intervention was to add visually clear graphics with red tape to mark out the sites intriguing history visible for all the visitors which was to also inspire the community for a vision for the future.
We also hosted a pretorch party - to capture the crowds that gather in the city centre to see the Olympic torch to come down and occupy the site. We had invited live musicians, pop up shops and bands to entertain the passing crowds in the ampitheatre area to stop and linger for a while. It was amazing to see how many people were drawn in because of other people or because of the music - they felt like there was a purpose to be there so felt free to stop and sit.
From all of this our research led us to 12 directives that we presented alongside icecream architecture to an audience and a panel of Glasgow City Council representatives and I was one of the students selected to present part of it.

Overall I really enjoyed my experience, I met a lot of great people that might be useful in the future and more
than anything it was an exciting prospect to be part of a live project!