Wednesday, 22 August 2012

‘Wordplay’ - Final Project of 3rd Year.

For our final project of third year we had the chance to write our own brief and design whatever we liked…within reason. Our only constraints came from our module title, ‘Partnerships Networks and Connections’. We therefore had to ensure that whatever we were designing we had to design with people/potential clients in mind. We were encouraged to reach out and talk to people in industry, people who would potentially use the space we were designing and anyone else that could influence our design process. I’m glad this module encouraged us to do this as it pushed me out of my comfort zone, helped build confidence and also got me to design with the public, something students are not often used to but will have to do once they are professional designers.

I decided to design a reading space for children as I found through research that it is greatly needed. I discovered that 6 million adults in the U.K. can’t read properly which means they can’t carry out the simplest of tasks, this stems from their childhood. At the moment 1 in 5 teenagers leave school without basic literacy skills.Getting children to engage with books and read early in their life, in ways that they enjoy will ensure they continue to read associating it with pleasurable experiences. Spaces can be used to generate excitement about reading and an environment that is flexible for the individual will give each child the opportunity to learn. I proposed to design a fun interactive space within St. Mary’s Primary School, Lochee, where children will be able to read, play and learn. If the reading space is a success it could be later implemented into other schools.

I began looking at other designers work for inspiration, finding out about, the best way to display a book, the areas where children like to read and how they might travel through the space. A couple of my favourite examples were, ‘The Library of Picture Books’ by Tado Ando and ‘Kids Republic’ bookstore by SKSK Architects. In the ‘Library of Picture Books’ the books are all shelved with their covers on display to attract the children’s attention. ‘Kids Republic’ is an example of a fun environment that encourages children to read as well as acting like a playground.

To carry out more research I went to St. Mary’s Primary School in Lochee to ask the children I was designing for what they wanted. I hoped this would generate a lot of exciting ideas. The primary four class were very helpful and I asked them to complete two tasks for me. Firstly I handed them a piece of paper with the outline of a book and wanted them to draw me their favourite book. I then gave them another piece of paper and asked them to draw me a place where they would like to go to read their book.
 This exercise proved that kids have so much imagination and they are all very different from each other. A fun, flexible space that feeds their imagination must be designed.

 Taking inspiration from stories, storytelling techniques and patterns a reading experience has been created. The space is divided into 3 sections; the beginning, middle and the end. A continuous path that flows through each section represents the storyline showing the ups and downs (this is also shown physically) until it reaches its climax that leads the children to the calm in the final section.

Section one of the space is where the children will find a book they want to read. Children can enter this magical space by crawling through a little red door. Once inside they make their way through the forest of books selecting one they’d like to read.

Zone 2 is fun and colourful. Children can read their chosen book wherever they feel comfortable. Climb up and read in the pod or swing next to their friends in the cocoons. Head phones and iPads are also provided for those who want to listen to a story privately or they can gather round the storyteller for group reading and participation.

After children slide into the final space they will be encouraged to reflect on the book they’ve just read. They can discuss, draw, write or even put on a performance, ensuring they leave having gained something from the whole experience. Snapshots of their experiences are recorded. Before they drop off their books they can check out other children’s adventures on the “Golden Book”.

“You cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do like a farmer, is create conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”  - Ken Robinson.

I felt that quote by Ken Robinson summed up my project. You can’t force a child to read but you can give them the right materials and environment and hopefully they will want to continue. I hope my design will get kids reading and enjoying it.

If you want to see more information about this project you can check out my project blog here.

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