It Depends on the Lens Framing and Reframing Multiple Points of View as Narratives in the Architectural Design Process to Achieve Inclusive Collaborative Place-Making

Author: Anita Szentesi


Could the interdisciplinary design driven approach, exploring architecture and film, achieve an inclusive collaboration for socially conscious place-making? I introduced film and its narrative formats into the architectural design process through a methodology that focuses on characters’ lived experiences in places, called character-led architecture. My research explores the diverse and complex relationships that exist between people, culture, identity, history, buildings and landscapes and is situated in the field of narratives in the design process to contribute new knowledge to architectural pedagogy and design theory.

In the field of narratives in the design process, the narrative function of empathy, identification, and memory through the process of persona narratives, enables me to explore attachment through history and identity to a place. Entertainment narratives, which in my case, filmic narratives, are the least explored type of narrative in the design process (Grimaldi, Fokkinga, Ocnarescu, 2013). The aim of introducing this narrative structure in the design process is to enable an understanding, as a designer, of someone else’s point of view, and their attachment to culture, history, identity, and connection to place. Character-led architecture supports the design process for the designer and aims to include the user: through the inclusion of diverse points of view, the voice of the designer and users, achieves a design that is inclusive and collaborative. In screenwriting, a character-led story is one in which the audience invests and believes in (Field, 1982). I questioned how this could be translated into a character-led architecture, where narratives grounded in characters become an important layer to be considered in the design process. I wondered whether screenwriting could be a narrative form that could be linked to the decolonising methodologies of storytelling (Tuhiwai Smith, 2012).

I have explored character-led architecture in three contexts. First, the architectural design studio at university, where students are encouraged to create characters and narratives in imagined worlds to develop inclusive and emotionally charged projects. Second, in community-based design projects, where stories from community members enable an empathic analysis of past and present social, political, and cultural environments to inform future collaborative place-making. The third context is self-reflection, where character-led architecture forms a reflexive layer that accompanies text to expose the emotive dimension of the experiences I write about. In these three contexts, boundaries frequently blur, and a framing and reframing occurs between who the participant is and who the facilitator is, as well as a framing and reframing between the creator and audience of a narrative.

My research is practice based, open-ended, is self-critical, as well as historical and context aware. The research is done from inside the practice and involves acts that are part of the practice. The research is a participatory act and a reflection with a strong performative element (Hanula, Suoranta, Vaden, 2014), and my positionality in the research is important. My subjective viewpoint is part of the research, through the position of myself as a character, which provides a frame for developing an emotive narrative that allows me to reflect on my own position as an architect, filmmaker, lecturer, and researcher.

List of References:

Field, S. (1982). The Foundations of Screenwriting. New York: Publishing Co.

Grimaldi, S., Fokkinga, S., Ocnarescu, I. (2013). Narratives in Design: A Study of the Types, Applications and Functions of Narratives in Design Practice. Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces, DPPI’13 Praxis and Poetics, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, September 3-5. Association for Computing Machinery: New York, pp. 201-210. (Accessed 28 January 2022)

Hanula, M., Suoranta, J.,Vaden, T., (2014). Artistic Research Methodology Narrative, Power and the Public. New York: Peter Lang Verlag

Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2012). Decolonizing Methodologies Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books Ltd. New York: Room 400.

Keywords: Architecture and Film: Narratives in the Design Process; Character-Led Architecture