Camden Alive - SoundBar
As a MA Narrative Environments student, I was invited along with some of my classmates to work with the residents of local council estates to contribute towards the Camden People’s Museum, which is part of the London Borough of Camden’s ‘Camden Alive’ initiative.
SoundBar is a research project and social engagement project at the Maiden Lane Estate, aiming to enhance community connections by uncovering underground musical talent using community radio and open space. It culminated in a rooftop concert experience, and a conceptual AR community radio platform.
MA Narrative Environment course group project at Central Saint Martins
Credit to Amelia Vilaplana, Chrissy Georghiou, Eléonore De Pesters and Sushma P
▲ Project Research and Design System
The project is a research project with a final design proposal. There are 3 main phases of research, first two phases each culminated in a social engagement workshop, and the last phase culminated in a design proposal.
▲ Maiden Lane Estate Plan
Maiden Lane estate is a public housing development of 479 dwellings (houses, maisonettes, flats) with associated shops and a community centre, situated between the residential area of Agar Grove and Camden Square to the north, the light industry of York Way to the east. Railway lines surround Maiden Lane to the west and south and Kings Cross railways lands site lie to the south.
It was built by the London Borough of Camden between 1976 and 1983 to solve the lack of social housing. Designed by architects Benson and Forsyth, it provided a modern architecture image with low rise building, linear and white buildings, scaled-down spaces and internal community facilities, to create a modernism utopian.
However, the railway lines and the industrial site create a gap barrier that isolates Maiden Lane from the surroundings. Along with a lack of activity and overlooking open space, the project soon failed to answer its residents' needs regarding comfort, security, and connection to the city. A 'social malaise' has been detected in the neighbourhood that over 50% of the residents feel depressed, isolated and imprisoned.
▲ Public Open Space and Social Activities in Plan, shows a lack of public space for social activities
After a long period of crime and drug issues, the estate's 'social malaise' continues as it is expressed on the blog created by a resident. Our site research suggests that there is a lack of public space for human activity, appearing as encaged islands (play yards, basket yards) in a space dedicated to cars. Both stairs and the presence of works difficult the accessibility of common areas and that the hierarchies in the use of space are organized by fences.
▲ Photos of Maiden Lane Estate
While after a first feel of desertion and emptiness, we discovered a community full of life and creative strength, simply covered by walls.
▲ Image of the first workshop, a self portrait collage made by a participator
▲ How People Say About the Maiden Lane Estate
There are conflicts between the post social malaise and the current positive changes, between the dismal outdoor space and the rich use of indoor space, and between the invisible trace of personal expression and the blooming diversity of the community.
To rise the voice of residents and stong the connection in the community, we organised the SoundBar workshop, a rooftop story sharing event contains a public interview with young creatives from the estate and a session of queation game. The event is underlined by a gold stage encouraging discussions through a sense of warmth. Gold blankets are provided to keep people warm and delighted.
▲ SoundBar workshop illustration
▲ SoundBar Plan
▲ SoundBar Event
▲ SoundBar participants share their understandings of culture
The SoundBar event activated the empty public square areas into alive creative platforms, open and welcoming. It promoted cultural exchanges among residents, and opened horizons (especially to younger generations) by showing available opportunities and tools within the estate. Most importantly, it gave the residents opportunities to have a voice and share the community values, with young creatives as mediators.
Then we expanded the concept of sound bar to an AR Live Community Radio platform.
▲ Maiden Lane Live Radio Conceptual Webpage
▲ AR App Conceptual Interface
▲ Illustrated Storyboard