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Do you ever wish you had a more comfortable space to work in?

Have you dreamt of a way of combining work and comfort that wasn’t just your bed?

Well during charrette week at Newcastle University, a group of 26 of us where given the opportunity to look into just that.

As a unit we were called ‘Soft Studio’ and we were given the task of exploring what a ‘softer’ working environment might be, be it furniture or spatial, with the aim of producing working prototypes of our ideas.Unsurprisingly, one of the key skills that would be (and was) required in creating a ‘soft studio’ was the ability to sew.  This was something that only a few of the students had experience of prior to this week. We were, however, very fortunate to be joined by Lesley Campell, a fashion designer who’s currently embarking on a PhD at Northumbria University. She was able to show us the ways and pass on some of her wisdom ensuring that by the end of the week we had all gained some experience.

Sewing, and pattern making, is a skill that I have been wanting to learn for a while now and is the reason I picked this studio. I had limited experience of hand sewing prior where I’d needed to fix up clothes when a button falls off or a hem drops. But when it came to designing patterns I didn’t know where to start. While I did not know how to design fabric patterns, I can safely say that I never would have guessed that vegetables could be the starting point. But there we were on d ay one, wrapping up vegetables. I can, however, confirm that it proved an invaluable lesson. One which we continued to refer back to throughout the week.

Who would have thought that paper, Sellotape, vegetables, a pen and scissors would be all that you’d need to begin learning how to make fabric patterns?!

Apart from taking into account our skill sets, we faced the added challenge of being able to use only the selection of materials very kindly provided by ‘Bazaar Group’. This meant that communication was essential within the group to ensure that there was enough material to go around each of the ideas being explored and executed to prevent any disappointment further down the line.

Surrounded by balloons, pins and fabric galore with polystyrene balls getting into every nook and cranny we set to work. It was exciting to see how our initial sketches and precedent images developed as the week went on.

Having been involved in a charrette last year that involved transforming a whole room into a spectacle I was keen this year to experience a change of scale and consequently opted to go down the furniture design route personally.  But it was wonderful to see all aspects of a room explored with teams dedicated to exploring how the floor, ceiling and walls could be used to create ‘softer’ working environments as well.

Charrette week in a nutshell provides a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and push oneself to create something you never would have done otherwise.

Working in teams, we experimented with ideas working through sketches, models and prototypes before embarking on producing a finished product. It was wonderful to see such a variety of responses by the end of the week.

We had exhibited everything from a wearable beanbag and a huggable chair, to a comforting standing workstation and a stackable sofa.

We came to a conclusion as a group that there is a fine line between being comfortable and being too comfortable to work productively. Would you agree?

Scroll down to have a look if you’re intrigued to see the finished results!

Which one would you like to try out? We’d love to hear from you!

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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