Week Ten: Research and Reveal

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

This week's lecture was with Joe Pochodzaj in conversation with Hefin Jones. The main focus of the lecture was engagement. How can designers:

  • Engage with local communities, groups of people, or individuals, to help identify issues or challenges facing those local areas?

  • Amplify/explore marginal voices and groups?

  • Create opportunities for debate and discussion?

  • Directly involve people in democratic or decision making processes?

Hefin Jones is a designer from Wales. Hefin works across national and international localities and often works between public, cultural, and educational institutions to instigate collective placemaking that is sensitive to the cultural, social material, historical and industrial qualities of a place.

Image: http://hefinjones.co.uk/cosmic-colliery

Cosmic Colliery

Hefin Jones was behind the project Cosmic Colliery.

"Cosmic Colliery involved working with communities in the Rhymney Valley, South Wales, to speculate on the possibility of the local abandoned coal mine becoming an underwater astronaut training centre. Acknowledging that this may never happen, we collectively explored how close we could get to something like that."

Hefin jones

When asked how he engaged people in the project, Cosmic Colliery, Hefin replied that he had sent a proposal to a community in the Rhymney Valley of South Wales.

He wanted to reimagine the abandoned coal mining industry as an underwater space training centre. The idea was to change relationships, perceptions, of the mining industry equipment left behind and the area.

He questioned who you be responsible for changing the area in the future, the answer was the youth of Rhymney Valley. He then began thinking about relationships already within the town. He then wanted to reconfigure the relationships and shift them so they're centred around the ambitions of young people.

Hefin described numerous methods he used to engage people within the project, such as:

  • Building relationships

  • Spending time in a place

  • Being in the moment with the people

  • Expressing an interest to work together

He also advised, when engaging, to be:

  • Responsive

  • Sensitive to the situation

  • Unimposing

  • Ready and prepared to encounter the situation

Hefin went on to discuss Markus Miessen and his approach to participation through Crossbenching. A Crossbencher is a person that isn't affiliated to either side but sits in the middle of two sides and asks questions that either side might not. It's a practice borrowed from the House of Lords, in London, crossbenchers make their judgements about a wide array of issues.

Image: Markus Miessen, crossbenching in architecture (abitare.it)

With Cosmic Colliery, the question was raised as to what happened once Hefin was no longer present or directly involved. Hefin mentioned that, firstly, he supported others on taking on key roles which then allowed him to take a step back completely and allow others to take full control.

Joe then asked Hefin to guide us through the process of 'participatory speculation'. Two key points stood out for me here:

  1. Taking traditional methods and filtering them through fiction as a means to change relationships to those things.

  2. Having a model doesn't mean it can be easily applied to all work.

When asked what role visuals play within his work, Hefin initially responded that it was dependent on audience and location. He then went on to describe how using various forms of media can allow you to explore and understand a space/environment. Following on from this, Joe went on to ask Hefin how he works with sites/locations/communities that he was unfamiliar with. Hefin described how your background and who you are can affect your relationship to certain situations.

"The fact that I can speak Welsh, the fact that I'm a man, the fact that I'm white and have some affiliation to working-class backgrounds-so all of these things- affect our access to a situation and to the people's relationship with that."

Hefin Jones

Joe then asked Hefin how he considered more marginal voices and/or representations within his work. Hefin described how you can never involve everyone within a project and that there have to be certain decisions you have to make to ensure the project is clear and to the point. He mentioned the importance of starting with a clear question and work around it.

Hefin also mentioned the film Two Laws, directed by Alessandro Cavadini, Carolyn Strachan. According to IMBD, Two Laws is Docu-drama outlining the culture clash in law between indigenous Australians and white European settled Australia. The reason Hefin mentioned this film is that he describes how the directors collaborated with the Aboriginal community to tell their story from their perspective. Hefin mentions the importance of sensitivity when working with people on (potentially) a sensitive subject and this example shows the importance of collaboration.

Image: Two Laws (1982) Free Download | Rare Movies | Cinema of the World (worldscinema.org)

Following on this Joe asked Hefin what advice he would give to anyone engaging in participatory work for the first time. He advised to be:

  • Honest with yourself

  • Comfortable

  • Interested

  • Responsible

  • Sensitive

Finally, Joe asked Hefin how he negotiated issues of power and hierarchy when working within community settings. Hefin alluded that different power relations require different attention.

Workshop Challenge

Brief: Is Taiwanese a Dying Language?

As an English language teacher, I'm curious about the native language of the country I'm currently living in, Taiwanese, and its ability to survive. Of course, this isn't an issue exclusive to just Taiwan as globally languages evolve and disappear, and have done for centuries. However, by looking into these issues locally I'm also interested in what has been done elsewhere to preserve languages from falling into extinction and what can be done to halt this from happening. Firstly, several languages fall under the Taiwanese language "umbrella", such as Taiwanese Hokkien (which is the most commonly spoken language in Taiwan after Mandarin), Taiwanese Hakka (which is in danger of dying out), and Taiwanese Austronesian languages or Formosan languages (which are in great danger of completely disappearing).

I want to focus my attention on Taiwanese Hakka. Today, like in other countries globally, Taiwan’s modern economy draws Hakka and other youth to the city, affecting solidarity. The community now worries that too many youths speak Taiwanese and Mandarin but not the mother tongue, and are forgetting their cultural roots. However, The island has experienced a passionate “native soil” self-discovery movement in the past few decades, and much interest has been shown in traditional Hakka ways. I hope to build on official support that has come with the establishment of the central government’s Council for Hakka Affairs, Taipei City’s Taipei Hakka Affairs Commission, and public/private groups at other levels. For the foreign visitor, the most important result has been the rejuvenation and/or initiation of Hakka festivals that allow you to jump with both feet into the community’s world.

Distribution Map of Hakka people (2010)

Image: Taiwanese Hakka - Wikipedia


flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (n.d.). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/691/pages/week-10-lecture-research-and-reveal?module_item_id=49434 [Accessed 15 Apr. 2021].

Abitare. (2016). Markus Miessen, crossbenching in architecture. [online] Available at: https://www.abitare.it/en/research/reviews/2016/10/28/markus-miessen-crossbenching-in-architecture/ [Accessed 15 Apr. 2021].

Cavadini, A. and Strachan, C. (2008). Two Laws. [online] IMDb. Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1159989/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2021].

www.quora.com. (n.d.). Is Taiwanese a dying language? - Quora. [online] Available at: https://www.quora.com/Is-Taiwanese-a-dying-language [Accessed 20 Apr. 2021].

Charette, R. (2020). The HAKKA People. [online] Taiwan Everything. Available at: https://taiwaneverything.cc/2020/10/08/hakka-people/ [Accessed 21 Apr. 2021].

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