‘The same but different’ tour
A group activity and an opportunity to develop a critical eye for the space around you
A good design team need to be able to question and understand how design influences the way a space or an organisation like a school actually works. Taking a tour of an inspirational place that's the same but different to the one you're trying to redesign can help the team to objectivity evaluate your own situation and to trigger new ideas. This activity is about learning to be aware of the details and the whole system in greater detail than normal, to ask questions and to evaluate what you're experiencing. We all took a tour of Dance City in Newcastle.
You'll need a well informed tour guide. Notebooks and pens for everybody, a large display surface and a digital camera (optional).
Before the tour, the facilitator briefs the team to write down or draw in their notebooks as they go round the tour examples of each of these things:
What are all the different spaces in the building - big or small? These might include a reception desk, a library or a stock room.
Who is using the space or might use it? These might include visitors, staff, performers. Try to identify as many different kinds of people as you can. What kinds of visitor are there?
What is going on in the space? What can people use it for? Remember to capture the details. Does somebody sort the mail or take bookings?
What designed things do you see in the space that tell you something about the way things work and what the building is for?
Option: Sub-groups could be formed before touring the site, each with a specific space to analyse in more depth and present to the other groups.
When the tour is over and you're all back together your observations should be collected in a 2x2 grid as shown. People can draw or write. This is best done in groups of 3-4 with someone acting as a facilitator in each group to ensure people stick to the task.
Discuss how things that you observed work together to shape the overall experience in the building. Discuss what you think works well and what could be improved to make the building work better for people.
• When you spend a lot of time in a place like a school it's easy to stop really seeing it and it's easy to stop asking questions about why things happen the way they do.
• An organisation like a school or Dance City is actually a collection of physical spaces, people, activities and things that all work together to shape the experiences people have of being there.
• Each part has an effect on the others - they work together as a system.
• A place like Dance City has a strong identity and sense purpose - you can feel it. This means that the people who worked to create it must have had a really good idea about what they wanted.
a case study from our project
During the tour, the group quickly began to ask really good questions about the workings of a space, what different things are for and why things were designed the way they were. Students were keen to list as many things as they could within each category and space, providing plenty of information for the 2x2 grid stage. They imagined other users, activities and objects that they hadn't seen but thought probably existed because of their understanding that things are designed for a purpose.
posted by steve lee on 02/09