“Designing Tamara” is a Visual Conversations on Urban Futures (VCUF) workshop that will take place at the “Musing inside Systems” event at Chelsea College of Art (baisd.wordpress.com/?s=musing).
Visual Conversations on Urban Futures are processes and artefacts that utilise visual language to enable and/or document polyphonies of voices that imagine and debate possible futures for life in the city (subjectivefutures.wordpress.com/).
The workshop is intended as a playful way of engaging participants to reflect on collaborative city-imaginaries: what are the forces and dynamics that shape the city? What are the challenges? Can visions of possible futures have a role in supporting democratic dialogues?
To do so, 170 students from the BA in Interior and Spatial Design will be involved in a role-play experiment that will transport them to a fictional world, which includes a city to create together.
Each participant will be assigned a character, and will collaborate with others in groups of 8 to design a neighbourhood, thinking of what could be created, amplified, or destroyed in existing cities. Each group will reflect on the values portrayed in the neighbourhood and synthesise them in a tagline. After a while, all neighbourhoods will be assembled to create a massive city in the middle of the room. Taglines will be placed on neighbourhoods, and the collaborative artefact will be photographed and translated into a compositional manifesto of the imaginary city.
In the second part of the workshop, individual groups will be given a series of challenges that will disrupt the equilibrium of the utopian city built in the first part, and will force them to negotiate strategies, design solutions, and highlight conflicts across neighbourhoods.
At the end of the workshop, we will have some time to discuss and reflect on the approach. After the event, all of the outcomes will be shared with participants.
Tamara is one of the imaginary cities described in Italo Calvino’s book “Invisible Cities”. Through a description of this fictional city, Calvino reflects on the role of all the signs that can be found in the city as symbolic representations of material and social practices.
“Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages: the city says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara, you are only recording the manes with which she defines herself and her parts” (Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities. 1972)
Our workshop is not an attempt to design a realistic city (of course!), but a way of talking about values, visions, futures, and aspirations by making these visible and tangible.