Microcosms for Immersion: The Childhood Factory
The Childhood Factory is a glitch in the space on consumption; reconfiguring the components of commercial architecture and services ducts, it is a labyrinth of different spaces camouflaged amongst the rooftop chillers. The Childhood Factory’s “Microcosms for Immersion” is a journey of self-discovery, re-establishing meaningful objects attachments through evoking memories and sharing stories.
This thesis explores disconnect in society with a critique of consumerism in order to propose a parasitic response, providing an opportunity to address the underlying mental health issues which avert us from meaningful social encounters. The centre of many UK cities now favour commercialisation, a new universal need that motivates the human desires and behaviour. When one or more of our core needs go unmet, a state of psychological discomfort and insecurity ensues. Materialism represents a pervasive value in contemporary society, a common route to reduce this psychological angst is to assuage our insecurities through material objects. As our lives are being filled with meaningless objects we begin to lose the ability to extract meaning and memories implanted within the things that truly mean something and define who we are and not who we are trying to be.
This thesis is not an attempt to reduce consumerism, but to create a discussion of memories and stories within an isolated society, allowing us to extract meaningful information from objects, in an attempt to bridge social relationships through a mutual aid of commonly shared memories and realisation that imperfection is accepted.
Taylor could you tell us a little more about yourself, where you have studied, what stage you are in your architectural career/degree and also any of your interests or specialities?
I completed my part I at The Canterbury School of Architecture whilst working for Carl Trenfield Architects who really focussed on the notion of craft. I then went on to graduate and worked with pH+ in London before moving to the north where I graduated from Northumbria University. Both studios and universities emphasised the importance of people architecture, where each project undertaken seeks to represent a wider meaning and this is my focus now working with GT3 as a Part II Architectural Assistant where we work with communities collaboratively by sharing ideas.
Alongside working with GT3 I enjoy collaborating with Northumbria University and enter regional, national and international design competitions. Many without success but a few with!
The project explores Mental Health something which is pertinent within our field of study, what persuaded you to explore this topic?
My research was aimed at the City (Newcastle upon Tyne). My focus was on social minorities and why they were misunderstood and as a consequence were being displaced from public spaces. A huge 10 acre shopping mall that uses overt and covert measures to exclude certain groups of people avert us from meaningful social encounters. The Childhood Memories aims to encourage the sharing of stories with others, forming an appreciation and understanding of those around us. Mental Health is something much wider; it was the opportunity to explore a small part of this during my thesis with the potential to inform further research in the future which persuaded me to explore the topic.
The aesthetic of the project is predominantly industrial, something that juxtaposes one’s initial conceptions of Childhood, why was this aesthetic and particularly materialism significant to the Childhood Factory?
The project is an amalgam of a site-specific narrative programme and the corrupting hybridisation of standardised retail architecture components and mechanical plant, this led to the architecture being both utterly alien and completely of its site. The corruption of standardised retail architecture peels back the false facade of commercialisation which we are all fooled by and forces us to immerse ourselves in something which actually brings us comfort (hence the teddy bears!).
The industrial appearance is a result of a parasite that relies on the shopping mall below, it ‘burrowed’ and stole from it, plugging into its services, hoping to go unnoticed.
Your research addresses and responds to societies current issues on consumerism in nine stages, could you tell us more about this process?
Each stage is derived from research surrounding interaction within Museums and galleries. There is no signage, promotion or clues as to what lies beyond within the factory, the main function of each stage is to intrigue, disorientate and depart us through our childhood instinct to explore. The architecture (each stage) is constructed to encourage this whether through a dark and cold space, or a space to encourage encounters and discussion. The thesis is not an attempt to reduce consumerism, but to create a discussion of memories and stories within an isolated society, allowing us to extract meaningful information from objects, in an attempt to bridge social relationships through a mutual aid of commonly shared memories and realisation that imperfection is accepted.
As part of the project you also created a series of evocative models, how did these models aid in the development of your design?
Each model was a method of escapism, after writing short essays, precedents studies, sketching and spatial analysis I had constructed a systematic time-line of the nine stages in order to achieve the projects objectives but was yet able to realise the spatial qualities of each of the stages. At this point I had hit a wall and constructing models allowed me to place mind into matter. The models began as narrative constructs and slowly began to evolve into readable spaces with a sense of scale, colour, materiality, and atmosphere. The final visualisations are heavily influenced by the series of models, and only show a greater depth of realism.
You have an incredible flair in your design, could you give us an insight into your process when producing your drawings, do you use particular software?
Thank you! The visuals took influence from the paintings of George Shaw and animations by Shaun Tan, always slightly off centre, captivating and reminiscent of childhood, in reality the drawings are constructed in Revit, and heavily photoshopped to achieve a sense of atmosphere.
You were nominated for an RIBA Presidents Medal for your project, what was it like to be nominated for such a prestigious award for UK Architecture Students?
I had always followed the President’s Medals since being told about it during my first year, the RIBA saw a record number of entries from across the world in 2017 and to be one of the 146 part II entries was a dream come true. Since this years entries have gone live I have received questions from all over the world, so I’m amazed that some people are spending more time than it takes to just look at the visuals!
You now work at GT3 Architects, what have you learnt from your transition between University to working in practice?
The first few months after university, where you know how to apply a concept to a project really well but not necessarily know how to deliver one, are a huge cultural change. Realising that there are colleagues to help you and aren’t working against you took a while, you quickly feel part of a much bigger team where knowledge is shared between people, rather than the competitive studio culture of University (which isn’t healthy!).
If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?
My advice would be to talk to people, work in the studio where ideas can come from conversations based on absolutely anything.
Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects?
On my website www.taylorgrindley.co.uk, we have a number of exciting competitions which need to be uploaded over the next few weeks!