Saturday, October 4, 2008

The value of metaphor?

Went to visit the Public Gallery recently in West Bromwich, both to see the fully interactive exhibition areas and the - as yet undesigned - new Learning Space. The interior is an extraordinary layering of open pods linked via a ramp (you go to the top and then circulate down), interweaved with a Ben Kelly designed set of tree structures with giant computer screen leaves. Visitors to the gallery accumulate personalised data as they journey through the spaces (on an interactive tag they carry), finishing up with the opportunity to translate their collected images into a self-created souvenir. It is not all up and running yet, so still too early to say what kind of impact this environment is going to make on its participants. In the meantime the gallery is exploring what kind of learning space would support and develop its activities.

Zoe Partington-Sollinger, Head of Learning and Tom Hamilton (from InQbate) have together been developing ideas through a workshop, now being discussed with the architect and others. At this stage metaphors seem key - ideas around 'camping' currently to the fore. Other participatory processes, such as the work Woods Bagot did with the University of Melbourne earlier this year, also seem to find metaphors useful - there ideas about cafes, sandpits and gardens. What is nice about these notions is they can help to break away from functional or behaviourist analyses of space; but what is problematic is how they actually translate into spaces that support creative learning.

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