Fun Palaces with artist Scott Farlow

This blog post was wriiten by Shape my City participant Martha Eustace

On the 8 of September, the Shape My City group met for their 6th session of the year. The theme of the week was ‘Fun Palaces’ and artist Scott Farlow came along to talk to us about his artwork, and help us to develop our own ‘Fun Palaces’ for the Architecture Centre’s 20th birthday festivities on the 25th of September. Fun Palaces is a national campaign supporting local culture at the heart of every community, with an annual weekend of arts and science events created by, for and with local people.

The session began with an exploration of the words ‘fun’ and ‘palace’. Some of the responses to the word fun included ‘letting go’, ‘being childish’ and ‘laughing’. For ‘palace’, the words ‘grand’, ‘opulent’ and ‘secret tunnels’ came to mind. Following on from this, Scott spoke to us about his artist practice, telling us that he is very much a public artist who thrives on collaboration and interactivity with people in the work he produces.

We were then presented with our brief for the week: Design your own Fun Palace. There was, however, an added element to this week’s brief, that we were going to be able to actually construct our designs and display them at the Architecture Centre’s 20th birthday party (a festival style street party on the harbourside). Once we had been given our site, a space on the harbour side opposite the Centre which included a bench and a bin, we set about designing our palaces in small groups.

The outcomes of the design process all had surprisingly similar theme: a covered tunnel/walkway, of which the surfaces could be drawn on and decorated by the public. From amongst an array of imaginative and creative ideas such as ‘toblerone (triangular) tunnels’ and spiral walkways, emerged an idea of being transported to a fantasy space, different from the actual surroundings. With this idea in mind and several shopping lists written, we all agreed to meet again, with Scott, to build our very own ‘Fun Palaces’.

On the 24th of September, Shape My City met up again at the Architecture Centre, and began to build our installation. This involved an amalgamation of all our ideas into one giant structure that would allow the public to interact both creatively and physically with our artwork. After some discussion, the group decided on a long, triangular tunnel, which would be lined with netting and bubble wrap, leading up to an enclosed area where people could spend some time illustrating what their ‘Fun Palace’ would be. We split into two groups, and one built the bamboo bubble wrap tunnel whilst the other produced a series of cardboard and bamboo screens. 

Finally, on the 25th of September, the Fun Palace was constructed by the harbourside in front of the Architecture Centre. The tunnel was transferred from the first floor of the centre to the harbour side out of the window, as the screens were folded up and carried outside. Despite the rain and wind, the Shape My City group managed to produce a net covered bamboo tunnel, complete with bubble wrap floor and a string of lanterns and fairy lights. 

This led to a gazebo clad in our very own cardboard screens, which encompassed a bubble-wrapped bin. We created a making space for children and families, who helped embellish our fun palace structure. Throughout the day we saw the playful interaction between people and our structure, and saw the responses to our fun palace documented all over the cardboard screens. As a group we managed to create our very first simple piece of architecture based on our own models and ideas, and also learnt the value of creative public interaction to architecture.

Reflecting on the process artist Scott said: ‘I am so proud of the young people. They worked so hard - collectively, imaginatively and with great spirit - I was so impressed with their positive and calm approach to the design and making of the Fun Palace, to their will to make something special happen (despite the ridiculous - but amazing weather at times) and in their warm encounters with the public - of which there were many. It was really a most enterprising and inspiring experience for me’.