A place to come together
September 17, 2020
This week I heard the term, “conversation pits,” for the first time. Having pretty much only seen these on Mad Men, I’ve never taken a moment to think about what a conversation pit represents.
Safety issues aside, I love the notion that we might create a place where we literally, and figuratively, step into conversation.
Of course, those of us without conversation pits have still created places to do just this: to come together, in conversation. And as designers, we often create spaces for people to safely, meaningfully, and sometimes collaboratively, share their stories.
Although we may be missing out on the plush couches and deep red hues, we still manage to step into conversation, together.
Through early conversations with community members, it became clear that this is an area rich in stories that mark the area’s history and diversity but which there have been few outlets to share and capture them.
I’m fairly certain that when I first heard Liz Ogbu speak about this project in 2013, I unknowingly decided to become a designer. A project that could have simply been creating a beautiful (but underused and disconnected) place, turned into something of magic by focusing on creating a space for people to share their stories. Watch the project video and check out Story Corps.
Taking a co-creative approach, Migration Lab transforms urban spaces into ‘public living rooms’ – spaces for meeting, interacting and inspiring one another. Working with migrants, refugees and locals, their aim is to facilitate “encounter and exchange between these communities.” Both the process of creating public living rooms, and the ‘finished’ spaces themselves, aim to bring people together.
Located in a meanwhile space, MAKE is a ‘public space for creative collaboration.’ As the name suggests, it’s a place where you can make things, with lots of kit and expertise on site. But more than that, it’s a space for gathering, hosting regular socials and events for local residents. I am a little biased here, having worked in Somers Town as well as knowing a few of the lovely people involved in the project.
As Jane Jacobs said:
Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.
This was originally published on my newsletter, Design With. It was archived in 2023.