Nature’s Winter

Aim: To work with local communities around Lake Windermere to create an installation at Windermere Jetty that explores ideas of nature and weather in relation to the lake and to local community stories

Date: August to November 2019

Client: Lakeland Arts / Windermere Jetty

Status: Completed

Principles: Holmgren

Framework: The Design Web

Tools: client interview, design meetings, vision brainstorm, motivation and resource analysis, initial risk / limit assessment, context analysis, ideas analysis, principles analysis, systems analysis, yields web, action planning, risk assessment, PMI.

How does the design reflect the Permaculture ethics?

People CarePlacing local people and their ideas at the heart of the design.

Collaborative and open process.

Working sensitively and generously with collaborators and wider team.

Setting realistic and workable targets and deadlines in order to create a pleasant working environemnt.
Earth CareFocus upon nature and climate in the content of the final exhibtion.

Use of natural and reusable materials where possible.

Encourage and support remote working so that people only travel when absolutely necessary.

Minimalist approach – simple build that uses the smallest amount of materials that is possible.
Fair ShareCo-production as key element of project so stories and ideas are shared and celebrated.

Space as a place to celebrate personal and community stories so the final focus is on the experiential and not the material.

Collaborative and participatory.

Encourage and celebrate community voices.

How does the design meet my personal learning objectives?

Permaculture design as underlying foundation to the work that I doUsing Permaculture methods to design a project that has been commissioned within my professional practice.

Application of Permaculture design within a real context in my professional practice.
Build links to the Permaculture communitySharing process and documentation via social media and design group.
Develop learning within the structure of the diplomaApplication of familiar design tools to an unfamiliar context thus developing my learning furtherIncreased knowledge / confidence through application of Permaculture Design in the context of a live design brief.

Resources / Support

Permaculture – Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability – David Holmgren

Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

Local Heritage Collections – Lakeland Arts /Museum of Lakeland Life

Collections at Windermere Jetty

Basecamp

Context

In July 2019 I was invited to work with the team at The Windermere Jetty to create an exhibition for families and children within their temporary exhibition gallery. The Jetty opened in March 2019 and is a beautiful museum which sits below Bowness on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere. The museum houses a collection of historic boats and is dedicated to the boats, people and history of Windermere – England’s largest natural lake. The team at the Jetty were clear that they wanted to create a space which was accessible and fun for this audience, but beyond that I was presented with a blank canvas.

You can explore a selection of images of The Windermere Jetty and the gallery where we worked in the gallery below.

Vision, Helps, Limits

Vision – I began by thinking about my personal vision for the project as well as exploring the vision of the wider project team and the team at the Jetty (Appendix 1). This happened through informal conversations and also through an initial visioning day which took place at the Jetty (Appendix 2). This began to give a sense of the space that we were going to create as being playful and accessible. It was also clear that it should be ever changing, that community voices should be central, and that it should all link to the wider collection at the Jetty. It should also link to their wider aspiration to use the gallery to reach out and encourage visitors to engage with the natural world.

I used all of this information to pull together a project proposalwhich would guide the ongoing structure and plan for the project (Appendix 3).

Helps – I thought about the things that I would need in order to complete the project in terms of motivations, internal resources and external resources (Appendix 4). This highlighted how important collaboration would be in terms of the project team and the local community. It also made it clear that a sense of play and accessibility would be crucial in the final exhibition, and that it should be a space that inspired ongoing participation and collaboration.

Limits – I mindmapped what aspects may exist to hinder ot limit the vision for the project (Appendix 5). The ones which felt particularly relevant were the short timescale, and the challenge and implcation of working at distance.

Patterns, Ideas, Principles

Patterns – When looking at how the HELPS and LIMITS fell together they could be grouped into five categories – emotional, physical, knowledge, support and logistical (Appendix 6). Where challenges occurred I thought about what could be done within the design to mitigate them.

Where challenges occurred I though about what could be done within the design to mitigate them. It was clear that most of the challenges were logistical ones and that overwhelmingly the patterns that emerged were positive ones. The challenges did not dominate in any one area, so if mitigation was put in place they should not become too much of a hindrance to the design as a whole.

I decided for this project it was useful to go through a similar process to think clearly about the way that the creative content of the exhibition would sit in relation to the patterns that had emerged. And also in terms of links between different aspects of the exhibtion content (Appendix 7).

Alongside this I worked with my designer, Lara Booth, to develop the initial design ideas (Appendix 8). At this stage we came up with the idea of creating three pods within the gallery, with each pod exploring a different perspective of weather. We had decided weather was a strong theme for the exhibtion as it brought together many different ideas and was somehing that everybody can relate to in some way.

Pod One“Like the idea of light”
“Idea of all walls mirrored too much – maybe front wall and back wall inside?”
“Opening windows”
“Light blocks”
“Periscopes”
Pod Two“Sound – weather sounds”
“Supported by a soundtrack in the whole space”
“Could children climb inside?”
Pod Three“Back projected roof – nice but how?”
“Books in basket”
“Cushions and carpet”
Additional features“Binoculars hung at windows”
“Weather wall with a painted chalf board”
“Weather words?”
“Hooked boards – invitation to share and observe.”

Ideas – I gathered further ideas from a range of sources using different collaborative and participatory methods (Appendix 9). Much of this was done on Basecamp which is an online project management tool. I had not used it before but found it an excellent way to communicate and collaborate when working at distance. You can explore a selection of images from the Basecamp for this project in the gallery below.

Principles: I thought about the project in relation to Holmgren’s Permaculture Principles and how each of the principles is reflected within the design. I found this analysis particularly useful in order to embed more clearly what made this specifically a Permaculture Design. You can explore these links in the gallery below.

Finally within this section I worked to create initial preliminary sketches that pulled together the different aspects of the design, reflecting how it had developed so far. These images can be viewed in the gallery below.

Integration, Action, Momentum

Integration: I looked at how the different functions that I wanted to achieve and analysed how they could be fulfilled by the systems that would exist within the final design – project, process and management, design, and built space (Appendix 10)

I then thought about the yields linked to the systems using the yields web (Appendix 11). It was good to see that most elements produced multiple yields. It also made me aware that a couple of yields were only produced by a single system so I would need to be aware of these and ensure that they were delivered by the final design. They were sustainability, collaboration, and organisation. I then used a systems analysis to better understand the yields that would be delivered by each element of the design (Appendix 12).

Action: I created a plan documenting what would need to happen when in order for the exhibition to open by the end of November (Appendix 13). This was broken down into key dates for design, for plan and build, and for engagement and participation. As the timeline for the project was so tight it was essential that we met these deadlines in order to open on time.

At this point in the process Lara and I worked with the team at Windermere Jetty to finalise the design for the exhibition. It was agreed that it would contain:

  • Three themed pods as previously detailed.
  • Two chalk walls.
  • A play tray in the shape of a boat containing natural play materials that would take in the main view in the space which looks out over Lake Windermere.
  • Two sets of binoculars hanging by the windows.
  • A box of clipboards and pens and pencils.
  • Four areas for displaying a cycle of work by community groups.

A selection of images from the final design model and drawings, created by the designer Lara Booth, can be viewed in the gallery below.

All of this work was informed by work that was created by visitors to the gallery during the October Half Term Holiday. A selection of that work can be explored below.

Momentun: I observed and recorded the key moments for the design (Appendix 14). I also made clear decisions about what needed to happen when and what support would be necessary. Alongside this I pulled together the design schedule and tech week / installation schedule (Appendix 15)

Appreciation, Pause, Reflection.

Appreciation: I took time to observe the things that I felt particularly grateful for at the different stages of the project (Appendix 16) It was clear to me from this how important the creative and collaborative process was for me within this design. And also the sense of collaboration and working as a team.

Pause: I thought about the key moments in the design where I allowed time to pause and reflect (Appendix 17). These were my regular trips to Windermere, team catch ups, weekly project updates, and during time spent away from the project when my focus was directed elsewhere .

Reflection: The final exhibition was installed and opened at the end of November 2020. In total around 4500 people engaged in the exhibition either as visitors or as participants in supporting activities. A walk through of the exhibition can be watched in the film below.

You can also explore a selection of images of the final exhibition in the gallery below.

And you can explore a selection of images of work that visitors / participants created in the exhibition in the gallery below.

At this point in the design I used th structure suggested within the design web to reflect upon how the design had gone (Appendix 18) – this reflection is also outlined in the table below.

What went well?– The exhibition was successfully created in a very short period of time (4 months) this bough challenges but we still managed to open on time.

– It was really satisfying to see how the final exhibition was used by the gallery team and visitors. The responses to the exhibition were lovely and the space was regularly used by the Jetty’s own pre-school group, local schools and local dementia groups.

– The final exhition was beautiful. It made excellent use of the space and was accessible and fun to explore. It also offered a great space to showcase the work of local groups which had been something that we really hoped to achieve.

– The team involved with the project worked together really well and it was a pleasure to be part of this.
What didn’t go well?– The timeline meant that there was less community engagement than we had originally hoped for. The community workshops during the half term holidays were excellent but more indepth community engagement was not possible.

– We had a problem with our carpenter during installation of the exhibition. This meant that we needed to find a new carpenter at very short notice. Fortunately we were able to find an excellent carpenter who was based locally and which did not have a major impact on our budget or schedule.

– There was a sound system and projectors in the space that we had hoped to use. Unfortunately there was nobody available on site who was able to use the equipment which meant that there were limitations to the film and sound aspects of the final exhibition. These challenges remained unresolved throughout the project.

– The Windermere Jetty is a paying gallery and ultimately this limited access to the exhibition. Although the participation team did a huge amount to engage local groups the entry free was a barrier to participation for some people.
Highlights– The beautiful quality of the final exhibition.

– The great team and sense of collaboration.

– The positive community use of the final exhibition.

– The use of online project management software (Basecamp) which proved very successful.
Relfections going forward– Working to a very tight timescale brings specifc challenges – I will try to work to a longer timescale where possible in future.

– The tight timescale meant that there was little time to reflect / rejuvanate during the project – it would be good to build more time for that in future projects where possible.

– Online tools such as Basecamp are excellent tools, particularly when remote working and working with a team at a distance.

– Design Web is a great framework but maybe not the best for such a complex project with multiple strands of work.

Design Reflection

I used PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting) to reflect upon the design as a whole.

Plus

I really enjoyed using the design web on this projecy – I love the way that it flows as a framework and find that it helps me to structure my thinking and a project as a whole. I also really appreciated how the different prompts of the web widened my thinking and encouraged me to observe the project from a much wider perspective. I found that the framework helped me to bring a large amount of complex information together in a useful and meaningful way.

It was a very positive thing to be able to use Permaculture Design on a live design brief for my work, especially as intergrating PD into my professional life is a key element of my Action Learning Pathway. The use of a design framework actually helped to bring a sensible sense of pace to a project with a very short timeframe which could otherwise have run away with me. It forced me to slow down and think in a project where fast completion of tasks was really important.

On a practical level using Basecamp, an oline project management platform that I have never used before, was invaluable to this design. This was especially pertinent as we were working at distance and working to a tight deadline. It is certainly a tool that I would use again for this kind of collaborative design process.

Minus

At times I struggled with the Design Web – particularly when trying to co-ordinate multiple strands of work. For example, at many stages of the design I was developing the logistical aspects at the same time as the creative aspects and sometimes this felt too much within the framework. At some points in the design I repeated aspects of the web to reflect different aspects of the project but this felt clumsy and disjointed. I wonder if there would be a more fluid way to so this within a different framework?

The very short timescale of the design meant that some elements did not develop in the way that we might have hoped for – we delivered less community engagement work within the development stage than we had hoped for.

Finally within the final write up of the project is was hard to judge how much / little to share. With such a complex project I wanted readers to get a clear sense of Nature’s Winter but not to feel over whelmed by the amount of material they needed to read and absorb.

Interesting

I really like the way that the design demonstrates how Permaculture Design can be used in a wide range of contexts – many people certainly would not imagine it being used to create an exhibition! I think active demonstration of Permaculture’s scope is a good thing.

Looking back at the challenges around the complexity of the design within the Design Web framework I wonder if the project would have been better approached as two distinct strands from the outset – or if another framework may have been better in this context?

Finally a key point of observation is to always push for a longer timescale where possible. The short timeframe was great in terms of motivation but meant that key aspects of the project (such as community engagement) were squeezed.