Design narratives and community bonds
by Shona Brannan, Central Saint Martins
Loneliness is a part of the ongoing struggle in the design of our cities. There’s a distinct tang of loneliness when inhabiting an urban environment, where we can feel lonely among millions. Maintaining a socially healthy lifestyle in this environment is an uphill battle most of us share.
As a growing designer, it’s in my deep interest to understand this complex issue, which a large number of variables fuel. These variables can be defined when we look at the components that make up a city and how they are designed – the physical and built environment, with its buildings, realms of private and public, and the infrastructure that bonds them. Most importantly, we must consider how we as humans respond to them.
One of these responses involves our movement within a city. A lot of the time, our movement can feel restricted due to the dominance of roads and vehicles, resulting in minimised access and freedom to public spaces. There is no shortage of case studies showing how the restricted parts of our cities can reflect loneliness and social anxiety. Public spaces, such as allocated parks and connections to nature, can be a vital help to our mental health and pro-social interaction.
As an architecture student, I find these observations crucial to our inherited quest to build a better world, or at least rejuvenate it. I think as we adapt and change as a society and generation, it’s important to remain connected to the history of our predecessors.
In London, the rejuvenation of parts of the city has successfully improved life in those areas. King’s Cross and Granary Square, for example, offer a great study of what adapted and repurposed nature can do for a space and a community. Buildings, public facilities and the green pathways of Regent’s Canal have been nurtured. I am glad to see that the old granary building was not knocked down but instead converted to another socially responsive use: it now houses Central Saint Martins, where I’m currently studying for a master’s degree focused on narrative environments.
This course encourages students to curate narratives in the spaces we design, as it is narratives that bond communities and the people within them. I hope to bring the slumbering topic of urban loneliness to an open discussion during my studies, weaving all these influences and communicating these discussions through my final project.
This post was extracted from our Kinship in the City report.