The Empathy Pavillion is a proposal for an interactive and immersive experience, designed to encourage connection, observation and reflection through nature, art, animation, augmented reality and design. The pavilion serves as a culmination of our Across RCA team’s practice, and the opportunity for the realisation of our respective working theories about self-care, responses to grief and our role within global ecologies.
The key feature that I feel should be highlighted within our final response, is the accommodation for each contributor’s element. Each group member’s contribution has been positioned in a bespoke arrangement that allows for each element to be highlighted in its own space, but to be cohesive as a whole. Working collaboratively and requesting information on how each element can be presented to its full potential served as the core of my design process when creating the pavilion. The first step that I took when designing the pavilion, was arranging each element sensitively, so the structure of the pavilion could serve as a vessel purely for the group’s artefacts, making the design unique to our group’s output and thoughts. When discussing balance throughout the scheme, and the weighting of each of our contributions, the subtle inclusion of nature is also an aspect that I was proud to include the design. It was particularly fulfilling to have the freedom to include aspects like slatted walls to accommodate wind and carrying aromatherapeutic scents through the space and to have these aspects be crucial to the efficacy of the scheme.
From a personal point of view, my response allowed me to develop my practice by returning to the roots of why I wanted to become a designer: to design spaces sensitive to the user, materials and the environment. The project allowed me to have complete freedom and responsibility for the ethics, outcome, and visualisation of the design itself, and to take the role of lead designer, an experience that I had not had up to this point. As ‘the lead designer’, the project allowed me to develop leadership, decision-making and communication skills, especially towards different demographics and skill sets.
From a wider point of view, The Empathy Pavilion serves as a reference point for other designers to contextualise artistic and multi-disciplinary collaboration to elevate a design to its full potential, especially for the user. Within the interior design field, space is typically created within a rigid, designer-forward approach. Often, little value is assigned to the role that fine art and technology can play in finalising and creating an engaging and meaningful space. The design of The Empathy Pavilion also characterises the possibility of creating a symbiotic relationship between art, design and nature. Although the pavilion is not yet as technically advanced as the bio-material-based and advanced biological projects that Oxman produces, the subtle cues that allow nature to inhabit the space, as well as humans, are valuable in introducing this idea as the precedent in the future.
From the beginning, our pavilion aimed to reposition empathy as a priority in our daily interactions, whether these be, familial, professional, medical or platonic. Outside of practice, the pavilion provides a starting point for empathy within the community. Through art, therapeutic aromatherapy augmented reality and design, mindfulness, stillness, self-care and observation through varying perspectives, empathy is given space to develop and prosper in the community. Through the art and animation included in the pavilion, introspective observations can be made, Jack Whitlock’s paintings explore feelings of grief and ‘letting go’, allowing the users to connect with and come to terms with their feelings; looking into themselves and into what formulates our interpersonal responses allows us to respond with more care for others. Emmie Thompson’s inclusion of animations that encourage self-care also encourages this knowledge of validation and creating emotional space in ourselves to become more empathetic. Anna Tsiganchuk’s development of vessels for augmented reality accommodates both of these ideas and elevates Whitlock and Thompson’s work. Leona Li’s aromatherapeutic contribution to the output allows users to be present, mindful and calm throughout the experience. In conjunction with the immersive and nature-centred experience of the pavilion, all elements would allow communities to reframe their possibly unconscious attitude and approach towards empathy. As a group, we discussed possible positions for the pavilion in areas with increased violence or community disparity, and with a distinct lack of access to meaningful outdoor, natural spaces. The pavilion could sit in a small, natural site within each area, to serve as a place where the value of nature, interpersonal sensitivity and introspection can value. We discussed possible uses in medical environments too; a space for busy doctors to relax and reconnect with their attitudes and profession to provide more empathetic and holistic care to patients.