StudentRationale - MA Narrative Environments

Transforming the National Temperance
Hospital into Temporary Workspace
How do we encourage interaction between co-working
members in an unfamiliar space? How do we foster a
sense of community, pride and ownership between
strangers? These were the questions asked by Ting-Hsin
Lin and Shan-Yin Hsieh (Taiwan), Andres Restrepo Le
Flohic (Columbia), Citra Oktaviana (Indonesia) and
Annemarie Mayo (Malta) to encourage encounters
between likeminded entrepreneurs at Camden
Collective's new premises in Euston.
The building is an abandoned hospital, once run by
the Temperance Movement. This was a mass countercultural social movement which originated in the 19th
Century, whose aim was to profess against the
excessive consumption of alcohol. The Insull Wing,
which was to be partly inhabited by the Collective over
three floors, was financed by Samuel Insull, an American
tycoon who was closely affiliated with Thomas Edison
and who came from a family of teetotalers.
The co-working model started as a generous venture to
give genuine risk-taking entrepreneurs one less worry.
Today, co-working is seen as a trendy, lucrative business
model, and over-styled, over-priced spaces promising
the perks of networking are everywhere. The Camden
Collective retains the trend's original ideals by providing
a network of support for worthy entrepreneurs. Its
measures of success, which are the basis of its funding,
are output-based. In a successful year, the venture will
improve neighbourhood safety and be a place for
entrepreneurs to meet up at the Collective, form stronger
companies and outgrow it.
Immediately rejecting social media as the basis for their
study, the team from MA Narrative Environments looked
towards the Temperance Movement for inspiration. To
foster the feeling of togetherness, the new "movement"
at Camden Collective needed to recognise themselves
as members, have a manifesto and anthem, share a
history, and possibly, an enemy! Their site-specific
narrative used the language and imagery from
Temperance and similar campaigns at the time in their
designs. The team proposed an initiation pack for new
members which would assign each novice to a
"house"i.e. Teetotalers, Drinkers, Salvation Army or
Skeleton Army through an emblem or badge. All four
houses, as well as the Collective's adversaries could be
discovered throughout the building by means of a history
wall which resembled an old pharmacy and a number of
emergency kits. These also serve as spots for members
to record their own stories. The division into smaller
groups is ideal for self-management
when coordinating football tournaments, and possibly,
the kitchen cleaning rota. Humour does not go amiss;
emergency packs include a percolator and freshly
ground coffee, as well as a razor to deal with the pesky
bearded Shoreditch hipsters i.e. the enemy.
Furthermore, members are offered a means to pledge
their time towards exchanging skills in an elegant yet
human and visual manner. The initiation pack includes a
card with two sides; "Give" and "Take". Members must
pledge their time both ways in order to be able to benefit
from the time banking scheme. This would enable a
circular people-finding system, where one could offer an
hour to one person and then be "reimbursed" by another.
One to one matches are not necessary. In addition,
the random mixing of members into houses, as well as a
number of conversation pieces such as the repurposing
of a disused lift stop into an interactive territory map,
facilitate serendipitous conversation. Finally, the location
of each of these interventions creates landmarks which
could assist in way-finding within the building.
"I need to finish this paper right now, but shall we meet at
the hipster dartboard, in about thirty minutes?"