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Remembering the Future

Testing co-presence 

Created by artists Carolyn Defrin, Paul Burgess, and Levitt Bernstein architects

with Dinesh, Elsie, Clodagh, Bryan, Peggy, Kate and Bob– residents who are housed by Hammersmith United Charities: 

Presented at:

The London Festival of Architecture's Where do you think you are? exhibition at St. Paul's Centre in Hammersmith, June 2017

Critical Care Symposium, Borough Road Gallery London South Bank University, March 2018

 'an opportunity to fuse architectural practice and expression with artistic vision and expression.' 

-Tim Hughes, former Chief Executive and Clerk to the trustees,  Hammersmith United Charities

Resident and participant Elsie visits the installation and watches her own story with housing scheme managers Jill and Cathy, St. Paul's Centre June, 2017
Critical Care Symposium attendees visit the installation in its remount at Borough Road Gallery, March 2018

'Remembering the Future, first and foremost picks up on the limits of language with Kate, Dinesh, Bob, Clodagh, Elsie, Bryan and Peggy centre stage as humans with rich and full lives. Their circumstantially vulnerable positions are framed in expertise, guiding Paul, Irene, Tom, myself and ultimately the charity in an ontologically vulnerable capacity for listening and understanding a range of social and aesthetic needs.


Filmed conversations with the residents reveal a range of vulnerabilities related to age, income, and loneliness; but, the residents are not exclusively bound to these stories and conditions. Stories about watching the Queen’s coronation on a first television set, of meeting a true love in a local dance hall, of a chance encounter with Bob Marley when he turned up to one of the residents’ music shops, are humorous and adventurous as well as tragic when attached to war, economic crises, losing loved ones and facing personal illnesses.  These more dimensional views of residents are noted by staff and trustees and the residents themselves, and evidence a shift in thinking about lived experience in relation to informing service' (Chapter 4, pp. 94-95).

A sample of residents' stories 
(featuring Dinesh, Brian, Clodagh and Elsie)
From the practical to the expressive, the residents' reflections fill the architectural models that have been built by Levitt Bernstein to reflect the flats at the charity and inform future housing development.
“The images move, coming in and out of focus; a metaphoric reminder that vulnerability does not stick us to permanent powerlessness, nor should it be erased in a narrative of invulnerability” (Chapter 4, p. 104).
In the original live installation,  dust particles moved in the projection light furthering a metaphor of the move-ability of vulnerability. The documentation here maintains a flickering light that points to its original live context, but equally, the artist recognises the gap in translation to an online portfolio.

Selection of Full Stories


'Here, the pronounce-ability of what matters to the resident is what drives the service provider, not the other way around. How space is used, the value of the oasis, of colour and interaction between neighbours as well as their proclivities for privacy, comes alive in these stories and in our method for storytelling. Considering design processes as a more artistic experiment guided predominantly by the values of residents, offers a new vision of consultation processes that while Irene and Tom noted, have been considerate of resident views and needs in the past, have tended to be brief conversations, survey tick boxes and one-off interactions' (Chapter 4, p. 105). 

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'A sticky jammy dodger and crocheted places for my hands to sit. I love projection that hits actual things, the physical blueprint of the house, balsa-ed up into spaces - quite cold and alien - and the framing of the residents , their places and their memories. Two disabled hedgehogs and the silence. An intersection of that flimsy construction, the ephemeral projection light and the solid dark furniture seems to activate something of this housing scheme - something of the fragility and solidity of that existence. Nostos and Algia - the reconstruction of the lost home and the longing which delays the homecoming. I move around the space and choose how much time to spend with Bob and how much with Peggy, but what is missed? There is shortbread and a digestive - fake grass too. Where does this spectacle happen? In its arrangements and fragments of encounters. I see the chair, the table and the universal symbol for door placed there. Blueprints leading me back to the building. Flats going up. Section 106 payments not made. Unaffordability. 'There's no strangers, there's no fear'. The aesthetics of housing.


Six people in a semi-circle face each other and watch. Sometimes I watch the person opposite. There is a gentle sense of interaction, a gentle question. the scruff of our neck is not grabbed. Time is in play and the piece settles around us a little more, rather than us being immersed or plunged into an experience. I don't think about my choices as much. This is not time bound. It is an opening in the day to be and distance is allowed.'    

              -Dr. Joann Scott, discussant Critical Care Symposium

Click on each image to enlarge

Reflexivity: A call for deeper co-presence

"Throughout the process of making, the installation may have been in service to the residents, but the experiencing of the installation may have missed this in translation. Looking at, or even down on the residents, as audience members peer into the architectural models, may have contributed to a problematic ‘us v. them’ dynamic.  The process for making and experiencing the installation demonstrated a co-presence with beneficiaries that reflexively leads to a question about how a more integrated co-presence in process as well as outcome might embed equity more deeply. As such, the next set of PaR projects considers how to engage with the whole provision spectrum in the practice" (Chapter 4, pp. 106-07).

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