MACRO UX | Culture Mile - Week 3

Week 3 🗓: 27 Jan - 31 Jan

Brief 🔍

Design a way for people to discover the cultural richness of the City of London

Teammates: 🤝Nancy, Tracie and LuLu

Research Methods 📚

Next week, we will have a midpoint review with our client so we tried our best to confirm one direction this week. To achieve this team target and get a better understanding of the people and the neighbourhood we are designing for, we went to Culture Mile area and did some "behavioural observations" and "interviews" again. What we found interesting is the behaviour of the people specifically the workers during the lunch break.

Ideation 💡

Idea 1 - Bench & Roman Wall

Our research has shown that workers want to escape their office and change their senses during lunchtime. Even if they just have one hour/ two hours lunch break, they will rush to a cafe or some food markets like "White Cross Market" to buy lunch. Most of them will sit at the outdoor benches or chairs inside the Barbican Centre. Some are enjoying their self-time, some are enjoying lunch with friends. But what attracted our attention, is the limited warm seating areas. We saw a lot of people and workers sitting on the floor of the Barbican to have their lunch break.

Workers during lunchtime

People sitting on outdoor benches

People sitting on the chair or floor of the Barbican

Therefore, we thought about using the bench parks that are situated in that area as our medium for a public intervention that offers warmth and combines historical elements and stories in order to engage the workers during lunchtime.

Benches near the Roman Wall

In order to create a warm comfortable area for the workers to use, we suggest providing an automatic heating system for every bench. During the winter, we can give the user a warm ambiance when they are using the bench to have lunch/ read books/ chat with friends. The heater will be installed inside the "Arches". We will use the arches as a continuation of the Roman Wall so that it can blend in with the surrounding environment. At night, each arch will light up when the bench is used. So when you have a lot of people sitting in that area, the area will be strongly lit by the arches creating a kind of social connection. Below each bench, we will also design Mosaic to represent the historical stories from the area. So each bench has a different story to tell. At the edges of each mosaic, we have a footprint metal. When users tap twice on the metal, the related historical stories of the mosaic will be played so they can listen and learn more about it.

First sketch idea of the bench
Second sketch idea of the bench

So this is a long term design that can create a new way and medium to engage our audiences. We believe that creating a comfortable ambiance for people to have conversations with themselves/ with their friends/ with the environment or even the public through different interactive benches and historical arches, can change their perception in the cultural mile area. We can also change the theme of the benches and arches by every season so that it can match the feelings and stories and also create the variegation.

Idea 2 - Barbican bridge

Another aspect that we found interesting is the route in which the office workers take during their lunch break. We did some interviews on the bridge and found that a lot of people will pass the bridge across the Barbican Water Gardens. These people could be commuters, citizens and visitors. During the lunch break, which is between 12 and 2, the workers walk through the bridges for lunch. In the evening, people inside the Barbican center walk through the bridge to the Moorgate station. And citizens inside the Barbican area will go through the bridge heading for different transportation.

Time-Lapse of the bridge

The bridge is a popular place, so it's a good place for people to have conversations with the area. We want to use the bridge as the medium to let people feel the sense of belonging in the Barbican area.

As we all know, the whole Culture Mile area is surrounded by music and art. Concerts are quite popular inside the Barbican center. And the Guildhall School of Music and Drama is just inside the Barbican area. Therefore, we thought about adding some music elements to the bridge. Playing some concert music on the bridge is a direction to light up people`s moods when they are passing by the bridge. Since commuters are passing by quickly during lunchtime. We believe that adding some interactions is good to engage people with the bridge and create the music together.

First sketch of the bridge

When there is one person walking on the bridge, the speaker starts to play music. The speed of the music will change as the walking speed of the person changes. When the person walks fast, the music plays at a fast speed. If the person walks slowly, the music plays at a lower speed. When more people walking on the bridge, more instruments will be added to the music. So if there are enough people on the bridge, it will feel like a concert is playing.

The wall on the bridge is decorated with symbols of the instruments in a concert. So people walking pass by could know the instruments that appear in the music. The music could be classical music or some musical works in recent concerts as advertisements. In these ways, we hope that people would feel relax and enjoyable when they are walking on the bridge and feel a sense of belonging in this area.

Second sketch idea of the bridge

Plan & Execution 📋

Our next step is bringing idea 1's prototype to office workers and ask for advice. We want to know their opinions about this idea and get inspiration for improvement. Moreover, we need to list the historical stories and design mosaic patterns based on local stories that are unknown and attractive. For idea 2, we hope our client can link us up with the musician or technical person from Guildhall school, in order to find local music that belongs to or related to barbican. Lastly, we want to test the sound of music and audio equipment so that we can find out how to do the bridge installation in a more effective way.

Project feedback & Reflection

After presenting our ideas to the professors, they said that they like them and would look forward to our next step. They also provided us with some valuable feedback. Firstly, for idea 1, they suggested us to think of other heating options for making the benches and also how to rearrange the benches in a smart way. So people can enjoy the area and have a better conversation with their friends. Secondly, for idea 2, they suggested us to think of some vintage music artifacts and the promotion methods. Not only using the bridge to show music and engage with workers but also creating a public platform for musicians to share their own music on the bridge. The music competition is a possible way to do advertisements for the bridge. Therefore, we finally confirmed our idea and direction, we will plan them in details and find out how to execute them in next week. Please have a look at the next blog for further progress.

References 📖 Laurel, B., 2003.Design Research: Methods and Perspectives. MIT Press. Markusen, A. and Gadwa, A., 2010. Creative Placemaking. National Endowment of the Arts. Washington, D.C. Vazquez, L., 2012. Creative Placemaking: Integrating Community, Cultural and Economic Development. SSRN Electronic Journal,. Webb, D., 2014. Placemaking and social equity: Expanding the framework of creative placemaking. Artivate, 3(1), 35-48.

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