London is at the coal face of massive change - staring into a 21st Century Great Restructuring. This restructuring will be of a speed and scale perhaps unwitnessed by any major global economy in modern history. Yet our public discourse seems stuck on ‘tweaking’ our future into existence. In response to this challenge I started to explore social isolation as a topic.
From 2011 and onwards there has been a sharp increase of mental health issues and social isolation. one factor is linked with cities. And the second factor is correlated to the digitalisation. Social isolation is defined as involving the cognitive awareness of a deficiency in one’s social and personal relationships, and the ensuing affective reactions of sadness, emptiness, or longing.
Think of social isolation being experienced on a continuum with two extremes. On one extreme, a person experiences it all the time, as an inescapable part of their existence. On the other extreme is a person who rarely experiences it. The first one is called Trait. This is a type which follows the person everywhere. It is generated from the person, although particular circumstances might aggravate their experience. For the latter, it is called State. It is generated more by the environment than the person, and usually it doesn't last very long (a day, or a week). Trait isolation Is multifaceted and comes in many forms, but all are founded on the same principal of a bounded and controlled space of exclusion.
There’s often a stereotype that isolation mainly strikes older, isolated people. And of course it can. But the higher rates of isolation is among younger people. This is driven by Physical surroundings and the "digital world". Thus most organisations currently are focusing on older generation like Thrive that uses therapeutic powers of gardening to help older people with a history of mental health problems and other disabilities in rural areas.
While we desire human contact, digital alternatives are often cheaper than everyday acquaintances. This has resulted in more and more aspects of our lives becoming digital by default, which has subsequently reduced our opportunities for everyday social contact. In addition to digitalisation of societies, the built environment can either enable or limit potential interactions. And one side example is fences in London.
DARK MATER EXPERIMENT
Meanwhile our cities are prolonging 19th century models of development, management and utility provision; using single point, in-vitro, atomised and transactional approaches to building cities, and caring for our individualised selves.
This project sees architecture as a strategic design discipline which operates diagonally. From the invisible ‘dark matter’ through to its physical manifestation by adopting activity of construction as a mean of rehabilitation since activities that involve making and team work has been proven to improve mental well-being, lifting mood and boosting self-esteem. Activities that involve making and team work has been proven to improve mental well-being, lifting mood and boosting self-esteem.
Most of the current organisations are focusing on traditional craft and making. These are permissive tasks that most older generation are familiar with but not younger ones. Then there are more innovative places like fab lab that particularly aims at young professionals. It is a place that introduces cutting edge technologies like robotics and digital fabrication toolsets to create. The question is can we use architecture as a medium for social prescription? What if old, young and professionals come together in a lab and work together to design and create structures?
URBAN SYSTEM DESIGN
Currently With around one in five visits to the GP made for social needs such as isolation. That 8 a day per GP and 248 through 31 GPs' around candle valley. We need more institutions that combines clinics and fabrication facilities. As a mean to enhance social prescription services.
Instead of visiting their GP’s when one feels less connected, a visit to design lab should become a norm and this can be done by introducing a series of design labs throughout the city. With a self-referral, patients meet with a deign lab coordinator who spend sometime getting to know them and helping them connect with people and setup teams.
Teams will then assist with architects, engineers and fabricators within design lab to design and build catenary arches and temporary pavilions on designated grid locations in Wandle Valley as a starting point.
Before using computational algorithms to develop unique design strategies, a series of conditions were introduced to assist the development including: Design complexity; Number of people; Construction longevity; Nature preservation; and Function. For instance if the given inputs include A) One week construction longevity B) 8 patients working on it C) Opening for trees D) Its function is for gathering ( to set height & width parameters) and E) Design should be self-supported then the final outcome will maintain these conditions.
ALGORITHM DRIVEN DESIGN
In the last two decades the rise of computer-aided design and modelling techniques enabled a new language of doubly curved surfaces in architecture. The relation between architectural design and structural concepts has changed towards an integrated organising principle of form, material and structure, which resulted in the emergence of a new design culture right at the border of architecture and engineering. Through new digital fabrication methods, the realisation of complex forms became furthermore technically and economically feasible.
The technical developement of this project aims to explore advanced computational framework based on thrust network analysis for the design of funicular structures. The research takes advantage of the use of visual programming algorithms via grasshopper in order to script various components of the structure and RhinoVault to interactively design the catenary arch. The notion behind this strategy is that the entire form finding process is fully controlled by parameters from the creation of the vault to the development of the waffle structure.
For instance, when the waffle structure script is written, the design is automated and changes can be made instantaneously, allowing many different design options to be explored before finalising on one. The script also labels each unique waffle unit for easy installation. Also, once the script is created, it can be used on multiple projects. Similar to object libraries and CAD and BIM standards, an office can have an entire library of these scripts, ready to be applied to different Rhino models to explore different design forms for its projects. The design is achieved entirely via algorithms; from boundary finding to form finding.
Inspired by the IKEA-effect, I managed to implement a strategy to generate community engagement during the construction process of the vaults. This process took on the idea from a “kit-of-parts”, where the basic framework of the structure, as well as the brick packs were delivered to the site where the patients would build the vault, from the ground up, by following an assembly manual and training which would be provided to them in advance.
The Process is the architecture as a form of prescription infrastructure. Where the act of building the vaults together is the prescription.
By giving the patients the construction knowledge, the project seeks to leave a footprint that will initiate a change that is bigger than the structure itself. The aim is at least three quarters of them will adapt a healthier lifestyle as a result, and that the same amount will find improvements in their mental health.
The construction of these vaults can promote the socialisation necessary for the sense of place that helps mitigate social isolation.
The spaces which are being created are fluent, always changing. What happens inside will enhance the local neighbourhood like workshops, exhibitions, exercising, meditating and entertainment like concerts or public events.
The programme includes a design scheme for farmers market for example where several teams work together to design and build a series of Catenary arches. A team of 6 will work on one at a time and the design language will change every month. Teams might also work on designing music pavilions for summer festivals which is more complex in shape.
These projects are an example of the benefits which can be achieved when health and care services, including, Local Government and community partnerships, work together to integrate care by tailoring the solution to the needs of the individual through architecture.
Collaborative commissioning of services is needed to reduce future healthcare costs, with a collective strategic promotion of wellbeing. Social prescribing could allow for making greater and stronger connections in the community, where traditional health models may have been limited
The project presents an opportunity to help improve local communities whilst at the same time forging community links.
Traditionally how we think about creating social good through architecture and design is through either function or the space itself. But actually these new design tools and combining them with existing ones of addressing social isolation, we can open up the design and the construction process to create a new social function.