Reflections; Providing Opportunity – The Art Bunker

Published on 12th May 2022 by Collette Raine

“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” Charles Dickens

PAD studio’s recent collaboration’s with Allan Murray Design have sought focus on providing community. Encouraging community through considered interconnected development with a collective environmental focus. In this guest glob Allan Murray reflects on ‘How to create social interaction’. 

The last two years have raised questions about how and why we live in cities the way we have. How we used streets and spaces has been turned upside down, changing the norms of social interaction. The pandemic has reconnected us to the important reality that “we” make cities not the other way round.

For a period of time city centres became temporarily abandoned, transport systems rendered unnecessary or functioning at low capacity. Social gatherings became nervous affairs. Over the last two years we have come to rely heavily on parks and green spaces as our substitute meeting places. The surreal moments in early lockdowns where cities became like film sets, bereft of life, challenged the permanence of physical urban form. The American behavioural scientist Arthur Brooks suggests that we have “learned to be afraid of each other” and that the alternative technologies Zoom, Face time, Skype etc have become the ‘junk food of social life’. We can exist on them but it’s a pretty unhealthy diet if that is all we do.

The pandemic undoubtedly altered our relationship with cities and urban environments. A psychological shift has occurred in our relationship with the city, one that has yet to be fully understood. In Jonathan Raban’s book ‘Soft city’ we are invited to re-shape spaces, to re-think them as a way of deciding ‘who’ we are and ‘how’ we want to live. I think we have entered into a new relationship with cities – less obvious than it was, open to ideas, more malleable and altogether softer.

Architects and designers have always been the ‘midwives of change’ early colonisers of new spaces. We find relationships and make connections; we are hardwired to seek to create. It is inevitable that in times like this when we need to reflect on what our urban environments mean to us, that design and creativity becomes the vanguard of that energy. Ultimately cities are our mental places, where in the words of the French anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss the city is the “the human invention par excellence” .

Our recent research work between PAD Studio and Allan Murray Design looks at how we can create opportunity for greater social interaction. The art Bunker is an art and community space that invites participation and offers places to immerse in the viewing of art but also in the creative process too. By intertwining galleries, art rooms, exhibition spaces, cafe, landscape, gardens, sculpture courts we open up opportunity to find common spaces where we can ‘soften’ the psychological divides that Arthur Brooks forewarned us of and re-learn not to be ‘afraid' of each other.

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