Lessons from the campsite: Developing a taxonomy of the socio-spatial relationships that facilitate successful communities.
Field/work 6th AHRA International Conference 2009, Edinburgh, 20 - 21st November 2009.
Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/12884
- Accepted Version
Publisher's URL: http://www.ahra-architecture.org/events/details/6t...
This paper describes an ongoing research project which examines the campsite, in order to explore the particular qualities that make campsites work as temporary communities. The study draws on a visual methodology – using photographs and drawings - and focuses on spatial and social relationships. The study is used to develop a taxonomy of socio-spatial relationships which in turn might be used to draw lessons for the design of communities.
There has been little socio-spatial research into Campsites, and almost none on leisure camping or from an architectural perspective. And yet this paper proposes that campsites potentially hold lessons for the design of new communities:
Social Networks - Camping seems to facilitate much quicker social networks than in the built environment. Children make friends with other children on campsites within days, sometimes hours of arriving at a new campsite, whereas they often don’t know the children in their own street. This is reinforced by the experiences of adults. Are there any lessons that we might learn from the campsite about the fostering of social networks that could be applicable to the built environment?
Evolution of settlement and community - Campsites demonstrate a very quick evolution of a settlement and community – particularly interesting are the most basic campsites, as we are able to see individuals and groups negotiate individual as well as shared spaces. Starting with a field, where do people pitch? What affects their choices? How does the single group relate to the whole? What are the unwritten rules? Are these rules timeless or are they culturally dependent? Again, there are lessons about the negotiation of contemporary settlements and communities that could be applied to the built environment.
Campsites are very temporary, loose-fit and changeable in contrast to the permanence of the built environment and yet this changeability is not seen as negative, perhaps because individuals are largely in control of their own spaces. How might this loose-fit approach translate to an approach to the design of new communities and would it be appropriate?
Campsites explore ideas of shared spaces in practice. Again, the most basic of campsites have no delineated roads, children are playing, bikes being cycled, and the odd car negotiates all of this. This research develops understanding around the way in which shared spaces are negotiated.
The study uses an in-depth field-study to explore these questions. The exploratory nature of the research meant that these research questions were studied though a combination of qualitative methods, to build a theoretical understanding, with the researcher involved in the campsite as a participant as well as an observer. The observations were documented through photographs, note-taking and analytical drawings. This visual documentation was used to develop a taxonomy of socio-spatial relationships which can be used as a way of thinking about the design of new communities. As such, the study explores a way of transmitting from the field in a way that might translate between the studio and the field.
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