A co-designed workshop with children for developing critical thinking on matters of public space.
This artistic workshop attempted to develop critical thinking by children on public space matters. The five-day workshop took place in October 2014 and was hosted by WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels. It was organized by the Office for Public Play/Annelies Vaneycken (designer/researcher) and accompanied by Michael Kaethler (sociologist/design researcher). Eleven children, aged 6 to 11 years old participated.
What does a child think of public space? What are their opinions, what do they like or dislike, and do they have a voice to articulate this? The 5 day workshop aimed to explore some of these questions by working with children and experimenting with a variety of pedagogical and design techniques such as non-linear structures of adaptability, deconstructing the pedagogue, and radical play. A number of tools were experimented with, most notably a self documenting sculpture collectively christened Mr. Wiels. This sculpture fostered inward and outward reflection on the children’s experience of the public sphere through being constantly co-created vis-à-vis discussions on and experiences of public space. The sculpture was constructed, both physically and ontologically by the children, using common materials, stories, and dialogues, which resulted in a co-constructed character, complete with passport, life story and personal interests. As the children created and subsequently toured Mr. Wiels through the streets of Brussels, they relayed their narratives of city-life, objects, memories, moments, questions and so forth to him, exploring their own lives through the artifact and with each other. The shared artifact mediated the individual and communal experience, taking the attention away from the designer/pedagogue by allowing the artifact to guide the process. This provided a rich experience for the children as well as a repository of data to be used by design researchers looking at child-centred design.