Sense and Sensibility

 

You have been given a secret mission.
On a budget of £1000 you have to transform a space into the venue for a prestigious and stylish dinner party.
You have a day to complete your task.
The space that you have to transform is an area in an underground carpark.
As you first enter this space what to your senses tell you?
What would you do?
My own personal vision would be to lay and area of black and white lino tiles in the place that I wished to create the island of sophistication. I would buy lengths of pure while muslin which I would weight and hang from the ceiling to create a feeling of being slightly enclosed and softening and controlling some of the view. I would buy candelabras and chandeliers from where ever I could find them cheaply and have as much candle light in the place as I could. I would also try to use up and down lighting, perhaps with a colour to it to take away some of the greyness. I would also find some empty ornate golden scrollwork frames and put them on the walls to frame the stencilled ‘level 3’ and ‘exit’ signs. I would find a junk shop table which I would cover in white fabric, also buy mis-matched chairs which I would drape in compatible coloured soft warm fabric.
I would find effective heaters, and find ways to get rid of the smell of petrol and substitute a smell of incense of some sort. There would be plinths with vases of ivy trailing down over the floor. There would also be ivy to decorate the table winding in and out of the candelabras and overflowing dishes of fruit. Table wear would be simple and white with cheap but elegant wine glasses and silver cutlery.
Mozart would be playing in the background.

I am always rather surprised at the way children’s playspaces look.
We seem to pay so little attention to the sensual impact of the sites we work in.
If any one has thought about the way things look at all, they have usually considered it from an adult aesthetic or an adulterating infantalist one.

So it is either the blonde wood, steel and glass look of the architect who would not listen to advice and went ahead with his personal vision for a local Children’s Park which the grown-ups think beautiful and children find sterile, impersonal and echoey. Or it’s the flaring-primarycoloured oh-too-cheerful-plastic-everything-world-which-assumes-that children-want-to -live-in-some-grotesque-big-mac-world filled-with -inane-grins-and -determinedly-cheery-I-Iove-You, You-love-me-if-you’re-happy-and-you-know-it-then-you-have-succeeded-in-subsuming-the-majority-of-your-range-of human-emotions-so-clap-your-hands-music-piped-in continual-loops-into-every-nook-and-cranny-of-the-building just-loud-enough-to-stop-any-conversation,-silence-or independent-creative-thoughts.

Yes I am ranting. But how rude we are to our children.

Lets look at an example of adult insensitivity to a child’s environment.

The Inclusive adventure playground that had a huge boundary wall that needed painting. They got Disney volunteers to come and do this. Disney have an excellent volunteer programme, I suppose it by way atonement for their corporate sins, However, these very well-meaning people came to paint the wall and seized the opportunity to snatch a marketing moment to the captive audience in the playground and painted their propaganda all over this wall. They chose Goofy. Goofy dopily tripping over his feet, standing on the tines of a rake and giving himself a hilarious thwack on the snout, Goofy trying to understand something a little too complex and scratching his poor baffled head. Do you remember that I said that this was on a playground for disabled children and their peers. A playground established to try to challenge the common perceptions and attitudes to disability? One would have thought that even the poor brainwashed folks from Disney could understand that to paint and image of Goofy, their corporate village idiot on the wall of a playground for children with learning disabilities, was probably as useful and tactful as the American/ British invasion of Iraq.

Written for PATH training
2004

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