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400 Volunteering day : Institute of Imagination

#SuperCity @imaginationLdn

400 has recently started an initiative encouraging its team members to take part in volunteering activities. We want to connect with other people and institutions and encourage creativity outside of the office, sharing our skills and passion for design.

As part of this, our Creative Artworker Marina Pappa spent a day volunteering at the Institute of Imagination’s Super City workshop – here she shares her experience…

I recently volunteered at the Institute of Imagination (iOi) for the Super City workshop, the winner of the first Cultural Residency at the iOi. Created by three artists – Jim Bond, a kinetic sculptor; Helaina Sharpley, a wirework artist; and Samantha Bryan, known for creating hand-stitched fairies, the workshop encourages people to think about architecture and urban planning by posing a question: What would a ‘Super City’ look like?

With that in mind, each participant was invited to conceptualise around and create with one wire structure (one building), all of which would then be placed side by side over a large table (the city’s terrain). In this way, the Super City is the result of collaborative work, the sum of all the structures built during the workshop.

Divided into stages, the workshop introduces people to the design process by first posing a problem, then moving on to research (by flicking through a set of printed images), and following with the creation of a 2D drawing that will later become the basis for their final 3D model.

Structural concepts

On the day I volunteered there were about 25 eight-year-olds from a local school present and they got very excited as soon as they entered the space.

After a quick introduction to the activity they’d be working on they were asked to come up with an idea for their structure and, to help with that, some questions were raised: “What is your structure used for?”, “What shape does it have?”, “How do you enter/exit your structure?”, “Who will be using it?”, “Why is this structure important for the Super City?”.

To fuel their imaginations even further they were presented with a number of images which they went through with great curiosity. Some of these showed exotic buildings, some old bridges and others conventional buildings. I believe this helped them to let go from their usual concept of what a city is by seeing what people are capable of creating.

Reference images and initial drawings

The children trace their drawings with malleable wire

Moving on to the drawing stage they were still engaged and came up with some cool ideas, like the ‘happy hotel’, where people would go if they were feeling sad. In the hotel they could find all sorts of fun things including a dedicated area for receiving ‘teddy bear hugs’. Another idea was a house built out of giant fruits, so you’d have food for as long as you lived there. A recurrent theme was transport and so a giant roller-coaster came to life – such a big structure that you’d live, work and go to school in it. And, of course, several flying structures and spaceships.

It was funny to see though, that despite all the new concepts they were introducing there would still be some ‘normality’ to each idea. For example, on the roller-coaster structure, there would be a pod for Tesco, and another pod for Nando’s… meaning that in the Super City we’d still shop and eat in the same places we go now.

After the drawings were finished the children were asked to move on to the next stage in which they’d trace their drawing with malleable wires. Helaina (the wirework artist) demonstrated how this could be done, the tools that were available and some techniques to work on the details. It was a very challenging task though, as you need to be delicate and fairly coordinated to give shape to the wire. At this point, many kids lost their focus as, is seems, they felt they couldn’t advance with ease, nor reach the results they had in mind.

Final wire models

To finish the workshop the kids sat down in a circle and, those who wanted, presented their ideas, drawings and wire structures. When they left, with their work in hands, they seemed pleased and were still chatting about all the cool things that could exist in a Super City. This was a really fun experience and a great way to get young people thinking more creatively. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for the Institute of Imagination and hope to be back soon.

More information on the Super City workshop can be found on the Institute of Imagination website.

#SuperCity @sambryan_artist @JimBondSculptor @HelainaSharpley  @ImaginationLdn