the sourness of study

meandering [micah]

maturing [micah]

melting [micah]

Seeing, Being, Doing: design

Gathering Spaces:

Responding as a creative practitioner to places where humans and non-humans gather

This course description is for a learning program that I, along with Navin Kushwah and Naveen Bagalkot, jointly delivered to our 4th year Human-Centered Design (HCD) students. We zeroed in on one core theme: the investigation and comprehension of gathering spaces, locations where humans and non-human entities convene. Our ambition was to test numerous methods of situated making as a unique form of inventive practice.

We aimed to untangle queries pertaining to the process of learning from, existing within, and crafting within these gathering spaces. Additionally, we strived to employ metaphors derived from these spaces to shape an “HCD” practice. The students partook in a wide assortment of activities, including but not limited to, conducting site visits, generating maps of the area, immersing in literature, fabricating artifacts, and participating in cooperative annotation and iterative work with their peers.

They also assumed varied roles within these gathering spaces. The pivotal roles of honest and speculative thinking, identifying and linking diverse experiences and knowledge pools, and the act of making as crucial vehicles of inquiry began to come into focus as the course progressed.

See full map at Chickpet Field Visit - HCD Sem 7 — Felt


The brief: 

Beyond the human-centeredness of design, lie the varied and vast untold stories of non-human spaces, artifacts, systems. Of particular importance is what we term as gathering-spaces: spaces where human and non-human actors come together to make it work; make it a place. How to observe and make visible how humans are positioned in these spaces, how the ways they gather depend on the nature of gathering-spaces and the other humans and non-humans shaping the space and the gathering?  We will explore how to learn to be, see and make in and with gathering-spaces. The project space is oriented towards enabling multiple practices of situated making as a form of creative practice, with an anchoring in auto-ethnographic design and a focus on unraveling questions around:

  • What and how might we learn about what we are seeing vs not seeing? 
  • What and how are we being and not being in these spaces? 
  • When we are making, what can the gathering spaces teach us about our-self and the kind of design we want to do? 
  • What metaphors can we pull from these spaces to inform our practice? How will we judge the suitability of the metaphor and position it within a larger historical body of work?

Student Projects:

Designing for Gathering Spaces is a unique academic course that moves beyond the confines of conventional Human-Centered Design (HCD) to consider the wider environment in which humans and non-human elements interact. It emphasizes on situated making and is taught in an interactive format involving active student engagement with diverse gathering spaces. The course takes a broad view of gathering spaces, incorporating both physical locations such as parks, urban environments, and workplaces, as well as digital spaces and ecosystems. Its approach acknowledges the co-presence of human and non-human actors, encompassing technology, animals, and natural features, among others.

Course Content

The course covers several key topics:

  • Auto-ethnography and Design: Students learn to document and interpret their interactions within the space and its occupants.
  • Understanding and Designing for Non-human Actors: This part covers how design can accommodate or interact with non-human entities.
  • The Nature of Gathering Spaces: Students explore the defining elements of gathering spaces and how they influence behaviours and interactions.
  • Positionality in Space: This topic explores how different actors are positioned in these spaces and how that positioning influences interaction.
  • Metaphorical Thinking in Design: The course investigates using metaphors derived from observed spaces for design thinking.
  • Responsiveness in Design: This section promotes the design of solutions that adapt to the needs of all entities in a gathering space.
  • Collaboration and Co-creation: Students are encouraged to collaborate with others, including non-human actors, in the design process.


Modes of Engagement

The course employs multiple modes of engagement:

  • Reading and Annotating: Students gain understanding of various histories, current scenarios, and narratives.
  • Mapping and Seeing: This mode involves discovering and mapping distinct perspectives across various dimensions.
  • Participating and Being: Encourages students to understand and experience various roles within a space.
  • Making and Bridging: Focuses on the creation of artifacts as a means of communication and collective thinking.
  • Archiving and Exhibiting: Students create archival artifacts that capture their engagements.
  • Participatory and Collaborative: Students participate in shared decision-making and actions.
  • Co-creating and Co-learning: This mode involves collaborative creation of artifacts or knowledge.


The course nurtures various capabilities:

  • Speculate: Constructing plausible concepts in the face of risk and limited information.
  • See & Connect: Uncovering and merging diverse experiences and forms of knowledge.
  • Be Honest: Being self-aware and transparent in expressing one’s position.
  • Make: Creating new artifacts, things, and relationships as tools of critical inquiry.

Weekly Activities

Weekly activities include site visits, building abstracts, mapping, reading literature, journaling, artifact creation, and co-creation of evaluation processes.

Applications and Themes

Several potential applications and themes emerge from this course:

  • Urban Ethnography and Place-making: Exploring spaces in urban environments and understanding how individuals and communities interact with and shape their environment.
  • Narrative and Experience Design: Documenting experiences and observations to create compelling narratives that convey the unique characteristics of different places.
  • Research Methodologies in Design: Applying primary research techniques like field notes, sketching, interviews, and sound recordings in real-world settings.
  • Cultural and Historical Documentation: Focusing on documentation and preservation of cultural and historical elements of spaces.
  • Design Artifacts and Installation: Translating research and observations into tangible design artifacts or installations.

Reading List

Srishti SDB Studio - Reading List **

Connections to this