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Materialising Interactions

Representation – materialising conversations and actions through memories.
These drawings are codes themselves. Despite their pictorial qualities, they require a skill to read the plans, sections and model together, that is required to put together a vision of the programme of space. This representational division is one of those mystifying professional tools architects have to communicate ideas to clients, that can at best only communicate a representation of an anticipated reality in the space. This is true of these drawings that are based upon a section and schematic plan that was drawn last October, for a school that doesn’t exist yet. Our fortunate position, being in contact with the school and architects but operating in parallel to the on-going, real project, allowed an analysis and critique to take place of the methods and concepts developed to design the school. This merited some strong criticism of a ‘commercialised’ approach to designing and the problems of the Curriculum of Excellence, that both condition the behaviour of the inhabitants. This is partially due to the complex jurisdiction and regulation that surrounds school design produces a flawed paradigm.

Architectural process through lead-user collaboration

By adopting an approach that puts the lead user at the heart of the creation of space, and integrating methods of representation, the QR codes, that present another dimension to the drawing about personal narrative and inhabitation of space, an alternative to the restrictive pedagogical methods and complex design requirements that inform design begin to emerge.

The process leads to a richer environment, one that actively confronts the commercial concept of the school, replacing it with the domesticated, self sufficient space that is derived from communal production, collaboration and collective consumption and socialising, positioned right at the ‘heart’ of the school.

Representing people through memories:

There are no actual images of people in the sections, architectural drawings and visulisations often contain outlines or silhouettes, or idealised fictional images of people (usually the slightly blurred or, on occasion, the first Google search ‘man’. The tags look a little formal and perhaps cold in their black and white image, but what they link to could is more than a pretend reality, but a memory, a real image or story made by the occupier of the space at that time and place. This, in my opinion, gives a much richer understanding of the occupation of space than any representation of a person, made with the prescribed, stylised or errant premonitions of an architect.

New drawings and models, linking conversations photographs and events as a process of recording memory. The tagging of drawings transmits the evolutionary and flexibility of the space into the drawing as a communication and analytical device. The model, connected to the drawings, has been designed to come apart and adjust, aiding new design arrangements should the storage and cooking unit locations continue to evolve over time through recording and recalling the use of the space.

Working in a practical and collaborative manner – using the real world as a testing ground for fieldwork to test different methodologies. At the end of the day, however, the project of Portobello School has gone to tender, and will be constructed. It will be constructed to JM Architect’s designs and I’m sure it will be better and worse in different areas than the existing school.

The proposal aims to demonstrate that a small adaptation in policy now, might, in a similar method to this project, begin to inform and evolve a new method of doing something. By subtlety disrupting the paradigm in a small way could lead to a completely different method of generating and inhabiting space. The risk is justified gradually over time to amount to an unfettered leap forwards. A new home economics department that is full of the complex intricacies of socio-material and experiential interaction.


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New Storage Stories

Proposal Description, Programme Narrative.

Pat’s new story…

How her role might change through the new proposal building…

How to replace the view?

‘The view from the window of the new school prep room would never have been as spectacular.

The proposal strategy opens up many possibilities about how the most spectacular store and prep room in Edinburgh might be replaced by an interactive meaningful space that uses the objects within to capture and store memories as well as objects. Adolf Loos’ domestic spaces focused on the exclusion of the window, literally obscuring any view and internalising the gaze within the building, heightening the relationships between the inhabitant, the ‘spectator’ and the surface areas and objects that framed the activities. His clever spatial arrangements are analysed in the sketches. The voids and passages put observation and participation at the centre of the house. Similarly, the proposal offers and opportunity for Pat’s job to evolve and become increasingly significant as the new Home Economics department becomes more complex and the relationships between objects, ingredients and people grow stronger. The interest would be shifted from the exterior to observation and participation in the interior.

Pat’s New Role

Pat’s role might become more of a supervisor for the entire area throughout the day as pupils and teachers use different spaces throughout the day. Cooking units are open for use throughout the day, providing the supervisor is alerted and pupils can eat together in areas that aren’t being used, using cooking units set away from the main class areas.

The store room and preparation areas are situated in the wide number of cupboards and shelf space that greatly increase the store surface area available. The level changes and spatial arrangements mean Pat could choose a new favourite location to prep the vegetables. As interesting and changeable on a day to day basis as the Firth of Forth, the different classes and pupils that use the space throughout the day mean the windows could be all but forgotten.

Preparation and tagging become crucial jobs. Referring to previous lessons to help teacher’s plan lessons and ingredient requirements, helping tag and record new stories and activities in their respected locations and updating the tag recipe book are all important to the smooth functioning of the space.

New Storage Stories Narrative:

It is noticeable from the analysis of the sections and the plans that activities in the classroom are more or less concentrated, but the activities across the department are dispersed over a wider area. Of course, the movements are determined by their locality and the fact that some happen in one room, whereas others cross several spaces.

However, a re-proposal of the strategy enables these common activities to be concentrated in the space, socio-object relationships become the heart and focal point in the space, from leaving bags in lockers, putting aprons on to the preparation of vegetables and storing pots.

Tagging and recording the interactions with objects as part of a lesson or routine adds a depth of information to the spaces, that can inform future use.

The proposal of new space design puts the cooking and preparation together in learning areas, whilst allowing a communal engagement between the cooking of food, the enjoyment of providing and eating together and heightening awareness of consumption.

Architecturally, the space is opened up, the large volume over the dining hall is used, expanding the volume of the space used and allowing the majority of the first floor of the home economics department to be removed and situated elsewhere within the site.

Cabinets, that could be produced by Design Technology students, partition stud-walls and scaffolding based structures provide solid structures for the first floor. The form and locations of the units are determined by the evolutionary and recorded use of space and interactions with objects between the pupils and the staff within the dining hall and the home economics classes. The analysis of the stories and spatial diagrams give the user and architect a means to focus design and aid discussions to concentrate activities together to create an effective space. The space has the potential to be altered during holidays if alterations or changes need to be made, perhaps depending on the topics the students are studying.

Architectural/Educational relationship:

Architectural space derived on a semi-permanent floor, partition and storage areas.

Educational and Spatial Policy

User-led programmatic space design through socio-material relationships and the social nature of cooking and consumption.  Self-sufficient (autonomous supply). Removal of commercial kitchen in place of space to provide and cook own produce, communally.

Extended/Increased awareness of consumption, able to affect and influence the journey of consumptive products. Recording use in space, storing events and memories on location influences future use and analysis. Extended learning, with the student’s ability to cook for themselves.

Hospitality for public events. Adolf Loos, influence of surfaces, voids and elevation changes in domesticated spaces.

Use of space determined by user, semi-permanent structures. Change in permanence of structures in dining hall, evolved storage room function.

Meaningful interactions between people, objects and space, visible and at the heart of the school philosophy. Re-positioned fabric classrooms.

Separate spaces for less experienced cooks and theory lessons on upper level. Increasing complexity and improved functionality through a didactic, gradual functional evolution.

Context/Symbolic/Semiotic relationship:

Volume extended, Home economics integrated to domesticate communal space, free and open policy of use and interpretation. Views are internalised. The secondary functions of objects is at the forefront of spatial rememberence, function and arrangement.

Object relationship:

More permanent function of dining hall leads to evolution of storage to provide for individual cooking areas. Increased surface area for objects and integrated influence on spatial/programmatic use.

Recorded use aid revision and learning process in a stimulating environment. Store room managers employed instead of catering staff, to maintain stores and supervise use during lunch times.

Socio-material relationship:

Visible, active participatory use, recording of use and interaction between space, objects, products and people. Hospitality and social relations improved and become part of school environment.

Evolving relationship of preparation/store room assistant, recording and providing items in a wider area outside of store room. Increased surface area and incidental positioning

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Story Tag 12

Cooking together. The tables can be arranged for different lessons and for eating together when classes aren’t there.

Ingredients are laid out before the lesson, placed on the central table at the start and we take them to the prep areas.

Centre table

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Story Tag 11

Amazing Stew

Jamie: My friends and I decided to cook a great beef stew with vegetables that we put on to cook at the start of the day, so we could have our own lunch. It only used one pot, chopped up some vegetables and five minutes before eating we baked some yorkshire puddings, from the freezer.

The secret is to sprinkle plenty of fresh rosemary and lemon zest over the stew right before eating, it smells incredible.

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Story Tag 10

Taken onions from the store room that were grown at the allotment. Slicing them  for a chilli con carne. Dicing them helps them cook evenly and greater surface area for the cumin.

Our onions

We cooked enough Chilli for our lunch and ten other pupils who joined us to eat it.

Chopping the onion

Chilli lunch

Eating together

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Story Tag 9

Poaching the fish

Learnt how to cook a really good fish pie:

1) Poach the fish. Put the fish in the frying pan and pour over 500ml of the milk. Stud each onion quarter with a clove, then add to the milk, with the bay leaves. Bring the milk just to the boil – you will see a few small bubbles. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 mins. Lift the fish onto a plate and strain the milk into a jug to cool. Flake the fish into large pieces in the baking dish.

2) Make the sauce. Melt half the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 min over moderate heat. Take off the heat, pour in a little of the cold poaching milk, then stir until blended. Continue to add the milk gradually, mixing well until you have a smooth sauce. Return to the heat, bringto the boil and cook for 5 mins, stirring continually, until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then pour over the fish.

3) Assemble and bake. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Boil the potatoes for 20 mins. Drain, season and mash with the remaining butter and milk. Use to top the pie, starting at the edge of the dish and working your way in – push the mash right to the edges to seal. Fluff the top with a fork, sprinkle with cheese, then bake for 30 mins. Make up to a day ahead, chill, then bake for 40 mins.

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Story Tag 8

The cooking process left behind a trace – the washing up left over.

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