Feeling Planning Colloquium

Now more than ever, it feels important to ‘go public’ and see how peers receive my research before it is formalised in a written thesis. And so I attended a day workshop run by Architecture students at the RCA: ‘Feeling Planning’.

How do we feel in urban space? How can intimate sensations, emotions and feelings come into discourses around planning for urban futures? Contesting the rational, colonial and gendered history of urban planning and planning law, students from the Master of Research in Architecture at the Royal College of Art invite participation in this colloquium workshop on ‘Feeling Planning’.

Our venue: The Workshop, Lambeth.

In the morning, a multidisciplinary group of postgraduate researchers joined together to give five-minute presentations of their works-in-progress. My presentation was a guided meditation with conscious breathing, using our bodies as a tool to connect with the space in a more nuanced way.

I noticed more similarities than differences between our approaches. For example, we all used mapping to conceptually or visually demonstrate how urban spaces change across spacetimes while drawing attention to interlaced stories of inequality.

All of us at the event were curious about urban planning’s effects on identity and mental health. Nick Bell, a PhD candidate in the RCA’s School of Communication, asked us all a question, which I think revealed the theme of the day. He asked us all to think about what a salutogenic approach to planning would look like (supporting and enhancing human health), as opposed to a pathogenic approach (addressing poor health when it arises).

In the same vein, I wondered what a salutogenic approach to atmosphere would look like… 

Through group discussions following the presentations and around the tea urn, we shared references and tips. Among my copious notes, I have prompts to look up ‘mindful design’ and ‘urban design for mental health’.

Mirrors for sky-gazing. By MRes Architecture students, RCA.

In the afternoon, we went for a short walk through Old Paradise Gardens. The facilitators had fabricated these ingenious mirrors that fit around the nose, below the eyes, so that we could walk while seeing an alternative perspective: the sky between the buildings.

Aesthetically, the experience reminded me of a method for mapping atmosphere that one participant came up with in a recent workshop: to film the sky and a shadow at the same time.

After the colloquium, I visited an exhibition at the Migration Museum, serendipitously also located in The Workshop. ‘Room to Breathe’ explores intimate, domestic stories from ‘generations of new arrivals to Britain’. I emailed the curators to ask why they chose such a title; I can imagine why but I think their answer will be even more interesting.

The dictionary definition for breathing space or breathing room is: ‘a period of rest in order to increase strength or give you more time to think about what to do next’.

My chalk graffiti in Old Paradise Gardens. Part of Feeling Planning.