The First (Dirty) Draft 2.0 – 22.01.2015

Link to download the DOC File: Extended Synopsis 2.0 – Just Text


Analysis and Design of “Peek-a-Boo” spaces in Rome, both in Urban and Peripheral context.

YOSI - Diagram of the Process-01

Design Development

  1. Peek-a-Boo Spaces: Defining the Problem

Peek-a-Boo is a game played usually with babies. In the game, one player has to hide his face, then he pops back into the view of the other, and he says: “Peekaboo!”, sometimes followed by “I see you!”.

Peek-a-Boo is thought by developmental psychologists to demonstrate an infant’s inability to understand object permanence.[1] The latter is defined as the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed.

Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist who first studied object permanence in infants, argued that infants develop this understanding by the end of the sensorimotor stage, which lasts from birth to about two years of age. In this stage, infants progressively construct knowledge and understanding of the world by coordinating experiences (such as vision and hearing) with physical interactions with objects.

Using these definitions as starting point, we can assume the infant as whoever person experiencing the city, and the urban designer as the father playing this game with him. In our contemporary cities, spaces such as the ones beneath the flyovers are almost always not perceived by citizens. Even though the amount of people passing next to them is significant, they are completely invisible to their eyes. They are right there, but people aren’t able to see them. That’s why we defined them “Peek-a-Boo Spaces”.

Through our design we aim to make citizens to gain knowledge of these spaces from the physical actions they will perform within it. We’ll make them able to see in these spaces potentials that are usually seen only by designers, bringing them to the accomplishment of the sensorimotor stage of the development of their urban consciousness.

  1. Searching for References

In this phase of our Master Thesis we will search for, discuss and comprehend different references The latter will vary from realized projects regarding our same theme, to various design interventions, which we can use as small urban interventions. Our references will not be limited to a certain city scale or country. We are looking for similar projects which stimulate urban revitalization and/or public interactions, as our sites are considered as empty, unused, neglected.

Our idea is not to use our reference projects as concrete ideas to directly apply in our concept and design, but rather as inspirations, guidelines for our thoughts throughout the development of our Master Thesis.

  1. Structuring a Theoretical Framework

Here we plan to use our definition of “P.a.B. Spaces” as a corner stone for the theories we will search for and we will connect with our Master Thesis’s topic.

Because our thesis deals which such spaces, we think that it is vital to completely comprehend what these spaces represent – from why and where were they created within the urban fabric; how they function or rather why they don’t do so; what their problems and potentials are.– We plan to connect it with both theories regarding urban design as well as other topics we will find fitting and interesting, such as art, sociology, architecture etc.

Among all the theories we’ll deepen, we selected books composing the primary literature of our thesis. Below a short list of the selected ones so far:
– Ole B. Jensen; Staging Mobilities
– Jan Gehl; Cities for People
– P.Oswalt, K.Overmeyer, P.Misselwitz; Urban Catalyst: The Power of Temporary Use
– Eran Ben-Joseph; Rethinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking

Reading them, we want to create a solid theoretical framework to work from, as we do believe that a strong foundation here can help us build a more complete concept, which will serve as guide for us during the all the design phase.

  1. The Dirty Work on the selected Sites: Mappings and Analysis

In this phase of our Master Thesis we’ll choose three distinct sites, which are part of the urban fabric of a city and are connected to it in different ways.

If we think of a city as a radial expansion with a central core, our sites are positioned in three radius rings around that core. These urban areas are different in their urban fabric, different in the mobility systems structuring them, and different for what concern their urban density.

We think that this distinction with the chosen locations will create a better understanding of the problem we are working with and also will stimulate our design concept, diversifying it in a way that will make our Designed Method to be applicable universally to every kind of site around the world. Using mapping and analysis, we will use our knowledge from our academic experience to create diagrams and illustrations, which will help us, understand the flows and rhythms of these spaces with their surroundings and their empty spaces within the urban fabric of the city.

Our analysis will end with the “Gathering Data phase”, where we will produce technical drawings; mappings of the flows; 3D representations and modelling; interviews with people; photographs; sound recordings; atmosphere models; traffic plans and more. We want to not only comprehend and relate the physical understanding of such places, but also the emotional relation of people towards them, as our design will seek out to be both functional and interactive. An active urban space that people can live and experience daily.

  1. Program Writing (1st Pin-Up) *
  2. Manifesto and Concept

In this phase of the thesis we will discuss about the final outcomes of the mappings and analysis regarding our sites. We’ll try to create a link between the studied theories, the used references and the arising results. We’ll structure the driving force of our thesis: a Manifesto and a Concept.

The Manifesto will be more like a declaration of intent. From the anthropological point of view it will state what are our ambitions about the atmospheres and the feelings that we want to bring into this Peek-a-Boo Spaces. It will be directed to the people: a promise that the designers are doing to the citizens that will experience these places.

The Concept will be instead our design guide. It’s a simple vision of what we want to pursue through our design choices. Abstract thoughts and ideas that will evolve into a more pragmatic design proposal.

  1. Design of the “Iceberg Method”

The idea is to develop and to structure a new design method, specifically thought for Peek-a-Boo Spaces. It will be something in between the abstract and the real. It will give suggestions about concrete solutions, but it will also give more conceptual guide lines that will let the future designers to make their own design choices about future projects about the same matter.

The IKEA instruction booklet might give an idea of what is our expected outcome for this design phase. A list of theoretical and concrete points to guide future designers (or maybe just simple citizen movements) to sow these spaces with an urban catalyst that will re-vitalize and transform them into new vibrant areas for the city.

Another element that might be useful is the development of an abacus of elements that can  serve as a toolbox filled of urban installations and already-made design solutions.

We chose the Iceberg as metaphor because we believe that, even if we could try to develop an universal method, there will always be an identity part, within it, referred to the specific site. Every space, even if it’s a Peek-a-Boo one, has its own identity features, that could be the cultural context or the location in the city for instance, whatever they are these feature cannot be skipped. So the main structure and the instructions ruling our method represent the part of the iceberg under the water, while the implementation of these rules, and the enhancement of the identity features of the site, represent the smaller visible part over the surface.

  1. Application of the Iceberg Method on one of our sites

After we have designed the Iceberg Method, we plan to apply it on one of our sites. Our idea is to see how this model works in a real environment, how it affects people and how it changes the perception of such spaces.

As we said before, every site will be different to some extent. That’s why we think that in creating a general method there will always be also a certain percentage that will be specific of the designed site. An identity element that will mark that area and that will make it unique, the tip of the Iceberg.

In this phase we will develop a concrete design proposal for the site. It will be an example of how the rules and the guidelines that are set by our designed method are applied to a specific area. It will help us to better understand, in different scales, how our design works in the real world of the site. Here we also plan to discuss our ideas with people and have them comment and criticise our work to get a good starting point for reflections and conclusions.

  1. Design Writing (2nd Pin-Up)
  2. Reflections and conclusions

The final chapter will focus on retrospectively reflections regarding the development of our thesis as well as our final Iceberg Method and its applications, functionalities and uses. We also want to extend out of our group these reflections, as we believe that external thoughts about our work will be beneficial and stimulating. Thus we plan to make interviews with people (outsider, citizens, professionals, etc), in order to get an objective and new view upon our work.

We also want to create a paper where we discuss what could be made better in our project and the next steps into bringing it to life, applying our Method to a site in real life if possible. Our main goal is to create a project which relays to reality, interesting and stimulating, and maybe try to further develop it, if possible, with an Architecture studio, Government authorities etc.

  1. Report Writing (Final Submission)

* Program Writing (Pin-Up: 3rd of March):

  1. Introduction/Background
    What is the overall problem of the thesis.

In which debate/theoretical field do the project insert itself. (climate change, public spaces, demography, housing, landscape etc.)

What is your take on the chosen theme.

  1. Problem/purpose
    What is the purpose of the thesis (here there can be several / a main and some sub).

What is it you exactly want to investigate in the thesis.

What can/shall be solved.

Define the problem formulation.

  1. Demarcation
    What do you not
  2. Method
    How is the problem of the thesis solved?

Working method:
What do you need to know something about and how do you find the answers.

Analytical methods:
How do you analyze your site.
Sketching/design process.

  1. Preliminary descriptions of the site
    What characterize the project site and its surroundings?

Starting to analyze the site.

Looking into historical, spatial, functional, semantic, political, legal issues.

  1. Starting the theoretical discussions
    Introduction to the theories relevant for this thesis.

Short description of theoretical field.

The theoretical field –list of relevant literature.

  1. Schedule
    Make a realistic schedule for the entire process with deadlines.

[1] David Mayers, “Exploring Psychology”, 2011


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