For several years now our studio has been interested in people and their relationship with systems and infrastructures. These can be hidden (intangible – e.g.social networks) or visible (tangible – buildings, railways etc.). We are particularly interested in change and how these systems respond or can be adapted / appropriated. This year we selected Coventry as our testbed for applying a systems thinking approach to design.
We focused our energies on Coventry’s Ring Road. Through the application of ‘systems orientated design’ explored the various relationships at each of the 6 original interchanges around Coventry. We investigated historical traces, movement flows, past, present and future uses, and most importantly explored the relationships between tangible and intangible forces.
We were inspired by from novels by JG Ballard – all of which question the dynamic between the individual aspects of consumerist society and the legacy of infrastructural schemes. All the novels have a protagonist, struggling against some sort of system. In Concrete Island the central character (an architect) is stranded in the middle of a roundabout – a castaway unable to escape. In Highrise Ballard explores the collapse of a stratified society within a luxury tower block, and in Kingdom Come ideas of consumerism and the rise of fascism are seen through the lens of an out of town shopping mall.
Coventry’s Ring Road provided all these contemporary technological terrains – the many roundabouts have inaccessible and isolated areas, there are numerous ‘luxury’ student housing blocks being built alongside it, and an increasing number of retail sheds including a multi-storey IKEA area beginning to appear around the Ring Road.
2018 to 2019
Michael Huang, Sienna Sprong, Bright Atttaphan