Day 7: A Match Made In Hackney

As we were coming to the last days of the Global Citizenship Programme we knew that it was time to bring our research and ideas to life. The day began with the team further discussing and finalising the potential concepts to use and after heavy brainstorming and poodle-drawing, we were able to narrow down to two brilliant ideas: A ‘speed dating’ app and a wedding.

All of this was displayed in one big story-board

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Prototype 1: A Speed Dating Community Events App

So one of the issues we had was thinking of a way to congregate members of the Hackney Wick area, old+new and develop a tight knit, cohesive community. The answer was that an app can take you very far in this day and age. Without going into too much detail, the app is centred on advertising sporadic featured events funded by Creative Wick to help newer residents as well as old to familiarise with each other and share their wealth of expertise. Essentially, we want this app to be a tool any member of the community can use to organise events and network with their neighbours.

A possible feature in the app is a profiling map:

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Prototype 2: The Wedding Of Hackney Wick

Whaaaaaaaat?! Yes, you’ve seen it all now. But It’s now 2016 so i guess places can get married too…? To themselves? Oh get over it!

This idea here intrigued me the most, I heard in some countries when a influx of new people settle in a neighbourhood they throw a big party to solidify themselves into the community. So we thought why not do the same here in the form of a ‘marriage’ ceremony? Hopefully at this event the residents of Hackney Wick can come down to celebrate a new beginning and eat some cake or whatever wedding-y stuff people do. Everyone’s invited!

After a lot (A LOT) of divergent and convergent thinking our team did a great job to generate two solid and very realistic ideas. All in all it was a very productive day that puts us in a strong position for the final two (L) days so we definitely can be proud of what we have learned and achieved thus far.

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The Wedding Invitation

(Un)urban Day 6-Divide and Conquer

Today is what we call THE PRODUCTIVE DAY! Despite the fact that we have only 4 group members today, we completed our task very efficiently. We split up into groups of two- to interview our challenge setter and to walk around Hackney Wick and Fish Island to “prey on” potential interviewee. Both the team completed the task independently then consolidated the information we gathered.

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Our Challenge Setter and “bonus”

We had a good lunch break together, enjoying the view from Stour Space. We talked about food, culture, ducks…(oops, is this part of Unurban? Oh well, joy should be part of this programme isn’t it?)

Back to topic, we all thought that interview is going to be an intimidating task. We were expecting to receive a lot of rejections, that people might not want to be interviewed. BUT, it came to our surprise that people actually want to talk! When we were interviewing our challenge setter from Creative Wick, the artist sitting nearby overheard our discussion which drew his attention and he later joined in the interview. So, that’s a bonus for us 😉

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Our Persona(s) from street interview

We also interviewed people from different background (e.g. our navigator who is also a local residence in HW, the gallery manager in Stour Space, a cyclist we met by the river bank, the programme manager from Hub67 and a day tripper who came all the way from Isle of Dogs JUST FOR THE EVIRONMENT and FOOD/BEER from Crate)

The interview process was very interesting and informative. We received very different views about the development that results from QEOP where some dislike the development that causes increase in housing prices whilst some states the importance of QEOP in providing more job opportunities. A few issues such as gentrification and the need to improve the sense of community seemed to be the main concern for most of the local residence.

After the lunch break, we started the process of divergent-and-convergent thinking to brainstorm ideas for our challenge. Sneak peek to what we have so far:

 

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Want to know what ideas we came up with? Stay tuned!

Day 5: London Legacy

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The well-anticipated first day out in East London in the incredible sunshine, we began the day in Stour space with a talk from Conrad. He discussed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park we would be visiting in the context of other Olympic parks and their many controversies. Despite no human rights issues with the 2012 London Olympics the future of the space that straddles four boroughs including Newham, Waltham Forest, Hackney and Tower Hamlets was a  contentious issue, raising the debate of the long term legacy and what this would mean for the local people long after the games had finished. The project therefore outlined themes that it would measure and aim to improve over the coming years, including tackling issues of obesity, general health and well being and the reduction of the existing poverty gap associated with these areas relative to the rest of London, that leaves its population with fewer opportunities and shorter lifespans. It made us think of the reality of the major consequences of these projects and how shaping spaces can influence the health, education and happiness of the population and the generations that follow and also therefore the huge responsibility of regenerating old spaces in a sensitive and with a human-centered holistic approach.

We then began our rambles in groups through the local neighbourhood by foot having a chance to view the old and new constructions. The most remarkable aspect of our walk through fish island and Hackney wick was the state of flux in some areas and the heavy development occurring seemingly everywhere you looked. The presence of cranes and newly constructed sights sat next to the old factories and industrial estates. We discussed the impact on local communities of the influx of a new generation of people and the possibility that although perhaps disparate in background, both groups were being affected by the same issues of the price of living and working spaces. Both groups needed facilities that catered for their working lives such as schools and good health services ideas that could be further explored in our projects.

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As we approached the Queen Elizabeth’s Olympic park we found a new environment, more engineered, more green and ecologically more diverse and open. We discussed how these spaces will change over the next decade and whether they will ever create the same local communities that exist in Hackney Wick as in the new homes that are currently being built on the site. With UCL’s own investment in hereEast as well as UCL East their own responsibility to cater for the community and integrate into the wider community was discussed through cheaper courses potentially more vocational in order to give back to the local community and break down the divide between the university and the local neighbourhoods, it will be interesting to see this come to fruition.

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We then congregated at the Mobile Garden on the east side of the park to discuss the R-urban project, we were shown the different plants being grown and the plans to use the biogas created to fuel cooking on site in the new café soon to be built. The gift economy tool library and bike repair service also showed innovative ways at creating ideals of a civic society and underpinned the whole ethos of the space in sharing the resources and individual skills we have with each other in the community in a space that would otherwise be an empty site waiting for construction.

We rounded off a busy day with the cross-strand human rights conference where we got the chance to hear about the other strands activities and come together to produce declaration commitments for UCL to uphold human rights.

Helen Quah

 

 

 

 

 

(Un) Urban day 4 – Green urban initiatives & Interview skills for research

The day started with a panel discussion with four speakers about green urban initiatives. The first was Joyce Veheary who talked about her Lend & Tend project., two representatives from the mobile garden city project and finally Gary Grant talked about the importance of urban greenery. Followed by a group challenge.

What I also found inspiring was theme of finding green spaces within in the city in a directly participatory and fast way. Instead of tearing down houses they worked with using existing environment and lead their projects by le people initiatives rather than just top-down political manner. It shows how much impact people can have and that urban greenery can be everywhere and anywhere as long as people are willing.

I also enjoyed about learning the benefits of gardening and green initiatives. I learnt that gardening could be a tool to build relationships from individual level in the Lend & tend project to the whole community as with the mobile garden city. That increased greenery also benefits the whole of society supporting biodiversity and lowering energy consumption by cooling down houses when placed on exterior roofs or walls of buildings. Ultimately, that green initiatives can benefit people’s wellbeing socially, mentally and environmentally.

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In the afternoon we learnt skills of social research method, for example how to approach people with questions in interview situation and how to get the most rich information and useful knowledge from questions. Methods included making people comfortable by engaging in small talk, perhaps having tea with them or ask them about their journey to get there. That we should be respectful and observant, e.g. if they take of their shoes off in their home you should do that to. We also learnt how to actually formulate the question in the best way. Some questions needed a direct approach. They are too big and therefore needed guidance too not give a too general answer. Whilst other questions should be more indirect, deliberately left a bit up for interpretation to learn more in depth about interviewee’s opinions. We practiced interviewing each other and how to lead the interview to get information about the topics we wanted to address by    using a list of questions to follow-up, structure.

We also received our maps and choose what challenge we preferred today. The challenge about helping Wick Award and Big Local Hackney Wick to facilitate positive connections between long-established communities and residents moving into Hackney Wick was the most popular and everyone that was present from our group today were very enthusiastic about it This was a very practical and skill based day, and I feel both more confident and ready  for the tasks but most of all really excited about the challenge and our week ahead!

(Un)Urban Day 3: Diversity and Difference in Public Spaces

I woke up late this morning and had to quicken my pace as I rushed to school, but it was really worth it because I managed to come in just in time before the three panellists for today’s discussion began their speeches. While the panel theme was “Diversity in East London”, I felt that each speaker’s key points revolved around an overarching theme of understanding how different people used and perceived public spaces in London, and this is useful for our upcoming project as it gave us a glimpse of how the diverse groups of people we would be working with in East London may have differential access to space.

My main takeaway from Judy’s talk was that the design of green spaces, rather than their mere presence, affects how different groups of people may potentially use or refrain from using it, and that this is determined by multiple cross cutting identities, of which she identified age, disability, gender, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief and sexual orientation as identities which implicate how space is experienced. Nikolay emphasized the social construct of ethnicity and challenged the notion that ethnic diversity correlates negatively with levels of trust. He suggested that this could instead be channelled into the creation of tolerant multicultural societies where diversity leads to higher levels of security and insularity within enclaves. Our last panellist Tim pointed out that urban design flaws (such as high curbs, fences or barriers) limited accessibility but can be corrected, giving Oxford Circus’s redevelopment as an example. I liked his ideas on propriety and ownership of public spaces, as I think it’s true that we all need to recognize ourselves as owners or citizens accountable for acting responsibly in public spaces for the benefit of others, and similarly, following this line of thinking, we need to act on behalf of minority or marginal others to design space that fulfils their right to inhabit the city as well.

After the panel discussion, we set out to come up with a solution to create inclusive public spaces for the elderly in Hackney Wick around QEOP through a collaboration between IROKO, an African cultural theatre company and the LLDC. I liked how our group came up with ideas rapidly and worked towards a project draft and timeline, for our Love themed outdoors event line up around the park, bringing in different elements like cooking, storytelling and performance to include as many groups of people and bridge the gap between the young and old. I could actually visualize the project coming to fruition, but I personally felt like this idea may not work to the strengths of our given organization (IROKO) so I wasn’t too sure if that practical aspect needed to be taken into consideration. I guess brainstorming sometimes gets us carried away, but that’s when the most creative ideas get uncovered, and that’s a good thing.

In the afternoon session, we completed our Human-Centred Design workshop, which cumulated in the presentation of our prototype through storyboarding and props. It’s truly amazing how 24 hours ago, the personas we created and their associated problems existed only as figments of our imagination and today they came to life. Throughout this process of divergent and convergent thinking phases, I constantly felt like I was just swept along a tide because we were put under time constraints to think out of the box and somehow or another, the problems and solutions we came up with seemed more real and tangible the more we build them up. I think it would have been better if we could be given real scenarios to work with rather than simply with our own assumptions, that way the solutions we came up with could be more grounded and practical. I’m looking forward to our fieldwork in East London next week when we really investigate issues from the ground up, but I think this design project was a fun and insightful challenge for all of us.

Here are some photos of the projects we came up with, including an tube app for the visually impaired, a station map and special lane for the physically disabled, a tube exit locator, an app for streamlining property agent’s commuting time using virtual reality and improving the design of tube stations to bring commuters closer to nature.

 

– group 4 🙂

(Un)Urban Day 2-An Introduction to Human Centred Design

Another day, another exciting opportunity for UCL students to explore deep into the fascinating nature of urban landscapes. Unlike yesterday, today was entirely focused on issues surrounding cities crafting solutions to tackle them.

On a early 10am start (well, early for some students), participants of the strand were up and ready keen to complete the day on a win. The day was split into two: first reviewing the work of a highly expertise panel whose work closely related to East London, secondly completing challenges relating to Human-Centred Design presented by Mensch.

Following the immensely detailed talks of Neil McElduff and PhD student Oliver Dawkins, groups had to develop ways in which organisation Creative Wick can be used to improve the well-being of residents within Hackney Wick and Fish Island.  After a few criticisms of the actual design of the website, a variety of innovative solutions emerged each tackling a different target audience within the area. Some examples include: providing free haircuts to homeless residents in order to integrate them within the community and providing art workshops for younger ages.

After a long, relaxing lunch came the most interactive part of the day; an introduction to Human-Centred Design given by Mensch. Now don’t get me wrong, this concept may seem pretty daunting but it’s actually easy to understand!

Starting the session off building spaghetti and marshmallow towers, where obviously the engineers tower came out triumphant, the talk then channelled in everyone’s creative side with each group developing a persona diving into the challenges faced on their daily commute. The characters developed differed greatly ranging from a 18 year old female King’s student with anxiety issues to a 30 year old blind pianist. Once the characters were created, we were then asked to create solutions in order to tackle these problems faced on their commute. With a great amount of ideas generated in order to improve the tube to comply with the needs of such characters there’s one thing clear: THE TUBE NEEDS STABLE WIFI.

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Bryan the 30 year old blind pianist

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Miranda the 18 year old King’s (boo) student with social anxiety

Despite all the fun and games there are some serious lessons learnt. We’ve learned about divergent and convergent thinking today which is a really interesting thought process I would say. Breaking down the idea generation process from self reflection to interviewing others, creating a persona and tackling specific needs is very helpful.

One key concept for today’s workshop would be changing perspectives from what is viable and feasible to what is desirable. So are we more people-oriented rather than business-oriented?

(Un)urban Day 1- A Whole New World

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is a process; working together is success.” – Henry Ford

I think this is a pretty good quote to start off the first post. Having people coming from different disciplines, talking about topics that might have never cross our mind (e.g. open/green spaces, well-being, empathy, urban planning etc.) is definitely something incredible. It is really interesting to see how we all look at the same issue from very different perspectives.

I am impressed by how much idea we generated by just taking a brief walk in Gordon Square. We talked about how space/architecture can influence our behaviour (e.g. pathways and fences). For instance, the garden is “designed” in a symmetrical manners with some barriers giving an impression of enclosed/protected area, which might subconsciously imposed some restrictions on our behaviour (e.g. movement and emotion). Some expressed feeling uneasy when people walked around the garden, not using the footpath provided, potentially because of the “design” of the garden. This led to the discussion about empathy, understanding how different individuals might view and utilise the space.

There are also some surprising facts that we have never thought of. For example, when we were brainstorming about what people might do in the garden, we mentioned about playing Frisbee, walking dogs, hanging out with friends etc. However, after spending some time “experiencing” the garden (which we probably didn’t have the chance to do so due to the busy schedule during term time), we found that Gordon Square, in particular, might be more like a “museum” kind of garden? There are statues remembering a poet, a Special Operations Executive agent during the Second World War and an archaeology stone placed around the garden. Surprisingly, the activities we thought of (e.g. sports game) are actually not allowed in the garden!

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We also observed a separation of space – an overgrowth wild area used as a habitable space for the biodiversity and a kept tidy area with benches for users. Rethinking about the concept of space, it is probably something that we take it for granted and never really pay attention to.

Some other ideas that we have raised:

  1. The rhythm of space (e.g. the walking pace in different places, either in the garden or on the street, in the morning or during the night)
  2. Space and emotion (e.g. green spaces and stress)
  3. How people make use of spaces (e.g. activity maps)

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Before I end this post, I would like to include an interesting question raised by one of the group member today:

“Is there a difference between a park and a garden? Gordon Square used the term ‘garden’ instead of a park. ”

Uncle Google says “A garden is usually a place for plants, flowers, trees, and other plant life. They are most commonly placed around people’s houses. A park is a public place that can have anything from walking paths, to open fields, sports fields like a soccer pitch, or play equipment for children.”

So, perhaps, garden is more for quiet and calm activity whilst park is for more lively and active activity? This is an intriguing question I must say!

 

Keywords generated by the team to sum up today’s programme:

“trees”, “interesting”, “inquisitive”, “cleansing”, “exploring”, “experiencing”, “environment”, “perspective”, “morality”, “refreshing”, “empathy”, “understanding”

 

P/S: Special thanks to Umar, Alyssa and Yasmin for the input 🙂