The Interior Environmental Design show at this year’s degree show, demonstrates perfectly the potential for social impact that goes on in the studios of applied practice in DJCAD. With a variety of projects aimed at tackling serious social problems, the work was certainly enlightening for a lay person such as myself.
Several of the projects addressed the problems that poorly considered spaces create. Jana Šmuhařová’s project “VIBE” (Visually Impaired Better Environment) considers disabled access design particularly for the visually impaired. A set of five glasses designed to replicate the eye conditions of Stroke, Diabetic Retinopathy, Cataract, Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration are available to viewers as well as a video which showcases the research using these in the Dundee city centre. “VIBE” imagines a shopping centre with the needs of these individuals in mind. The effect of built environment on users are also explored by Olga Kuznetsova and Nicole Tennant’s projects. Kuznetsova’s “Emotive Escape Spaces” looks into creating a physical work environment for RBS which responds to the four major emotions of anger, fear, sadness and joy in order to increase worker productivity and health. Tennant’s “Remedial Reach” investigates the importance of physical environment for the 72% of the children in care in Scotland who also suffer from mental health issues; her work attempts to design spaces which can help both in the handling and healing of these individuals, for example, those with ADHD, affective mood, anxiety, post traumatic stress and disruptive behaviour disorders. Finally, and perhaps for me the most interesting project in this vein, is Shonagh Gardiner’s “The Unlocked: HMP Aberdeen”, which examines issues surrounding re-offending and re-integration of offenders for individuals on release. Using the unused HMP Aberdeen site, and using elements from historic penal institutions adapted to suit her brief, Gardiner’s aim is to create a “prison blueprint which aims to influence policy making.” Particularly interesting is her idea of lodges to help in the deinstitutionalisation process.
Alison Best and Tanith McKenzie have both chosen to use community-based approaches to create recreational environments with children in mind. Best’s “Re: Think Play” presents a design for the Roseangle play park which respects its historic location and highlights the necessity for outdoor play areas. Co-designing with children, her project includes visually stunning, playful models and product boards which really communicate her commitment to develop spaces designed by and not just for children. Similarly, Mackenzie has co-opted children at the design stage to create an ambitious swimming centre aimed at encouraging reluctant children to play in the water and to swim. The “Floating Water Centre, Seol Kore” is Min HeeLee’s project, a “water museum and experience” aimed at raising awareness and educating the public about water purification processes. She creates water droplet inspired buildings on the banks of the Han river.
Natalie Houtioudi’s “Education Centre for Applied Biomimicry” is perhaps the most interesting project in the show that explicitly addresses interaction with the natural environment. Houtioudi projects a biomimicry education centre, “translating adaptation in biology into solutions in architecture” (Michael Palwyn). The project incorporates natural structures in order to better deal with natural disasters. Proposed for the location of New Orleans, where hurricane Katrina exposed the dangers of unconsidered human development such as poor drainage practices; her centre will have a lower level that is designed to flood without damaging the building. By adapting the buildings to the environment rather than the other way round this method hopes to be able to eventually save huge governmental expenditure in the case of natural disasters; it would be fascinating to see this project realised.
These are just a few of the projects in this year’s show and the exhibition really is an eye opener. I am sure those who are knowledgeable will not be disappointed by the detailed and well-presented projects on show. For those who like me are unfamiliar with this kind of work, Interior Environmental Design is an education.