The aim of the workshop was to explore the role children can play in collaborative design, as well as introducing the group to architectural concepts and allowing them to experiment with making spaces using the online multiplayer building game, Roblox. We were hosted by Brickworks Community Centre in Islington, a fantastic space that was opened earlier this year and provides a wide range of facilities for the local area.
For practical support with gaming tools and navigation, Dexter and Isabella were on hand to give demos on the projector. As keen gamers themselves, they had experience with some of the challenges new players might run into.
After a short presentation about qualities of spaces and the way architecture can make you feel, we asked everyone to get stuck in designing their own churches as a warm up. It was fascinating to see the different approaches each gamer took, as some built walls around the edge of their baseplate, whilst others started in the middle and had a clear strategy for the spatial experience they wanted to create. After time was up, we went on a virtual tour of everyone’s churches and discussed the various outcomes. It was clear how much had been thought about, and comments like ‘this ceiling feels too low, it needs to be higher’ showed how quickly the students were engaging with complicated themes and iterating their designs.
After the main challenge, we asked each group to present their work and explain some of their design decisions before the parents arrived for feedback. Rio said he enjoyed the exploratory nature of the session, as it was ‘good to be creative and play around without an aim’. Jessica got into the swing of things, and noted how it is ‘fun to design buildings’. The format of the workshop was a bit of an experiment for us, given the practicalities of the Roblox platform and number of students (and laptops) in the session, but the outcome was an encouraging success. It was brilliant to see the students engaging with complex design problems and enjoying the opportunity to be creative.
She also noted, ‘It was really interesting to stop and think about the places we use and to realise that they could have been designed differently, not just to accept that this is how it is’.
With thanks to St Mark’s Church of England Primary School and particularly the Deputy Headteacher Matthew Jones for helping us organise the day.