Seminar Discussion Group 1


“I Stood Up” at Chrisp Street is a pop-up encounter that transforms an unused shop space into a one-day workshop place. A shop that is usually closed and empty – passers-by and neighbors were attracted by the pop-up aesthetic. They joined with genuine curiosity, finding pictures of nature/biodiversity taken in their own surroundings; they stumbled into workshops, which explored different elements of fashion (meanings, roles, values, procedures).

Through these activities, people disrupt their ordinary perception of the environment, and access new ones: by re-considering nature through pictures and conversations, they notice elements of unexpected interest and beauty; discovering new value in their natural surroundings that is usually both neglected and unseen, due to an aggressive urban deterioration of the area. They ultimately strengthen the connection with the ordinary context by seeing, appreciating, and understanding details through different eyes.

Moreover, this encounter valued the immediacy of the interaction. Participants wandering through the spaces created open conversations spontaneously woven around the self, nature, and the outside: offering people new chances to place their own self in the space and time of the changing neighbourhood, where they are usually alienated.

At the photo-booth, participants ‘testified’ their thoughts in exchange for an I Stood Up t-shirt (its design inspired by local natural elements) – a picture was taken of them wearing it before they take it away. This participative experience of fashion is a symbolic process of identity reconstruction: the t-shirt representing a building block for self-identity, as well as the icon of the relational identity with the locale and its community. Through fashion, identity becomes a value connected to the place where people belong. This encounter nurtures the relationship of citizens with their environment. It enhances and liberates chatting – the neutrality of the space allows people to talk about personal perception and feelings. It liberates interests and the content of conversations that may inspire them with new ideas of their own wellbeing rooted in local surroundings and ordinary time and space.

This encounter suggests some design specificity about the qualities of a place:

  • The neutrality of the space helps to create open access.
  • The aesthetic of the pop-up, (unfinished, not-polished), can be implicitly identified as opportunity for interaction, and have inspired more easily, participative feelings and the desire to explore.
  • The engagement creates appreciation of the experience.
  • It is possible that a too polished aesthetic would drive instead more consumerist and sterile attitudes.

The use of images in the exhibition leverages their possibility to represent or evoke symbolic, immaterial, multiple meanings that is indeed a skill of design – visual literacy. 

These elements of the visual aesthetic are traces of typical design attention to the context. This capability is resourceful: triggering the participants towards deeper self-placement and environmental understanding.

Weaving People and Places Seminar
Central Saint Martins, 1 July 2016