Narrative Environments

Came across this course and was delving around their site. I came across this bit of research

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is dancing in the streets by Stuart Jones.


I must admit I was intrigued how someone I knew related to colour theory related to narrative environments and dancing.

Whether or not people remain rooted in their seats, the audience participates in the making of the performance, and, actually, in the making of the meaning, as meaning only comes into being through transmission, and takes form through the understanding of the audience members as individuals and perhaps as a collective. It should be understood that this form will inevitably differ from that which existed in the ‘author’s’ conception. Some would say that the work exists in as many versions as there are minds to grasp it.

An architect might ask “All very interesting, but what has this to do with buildings? They’re fixed;
details might change, use might change, but the building remains what it is, its structure, its materials.” Of course architects are aware of process, that the first phase of a building’s existence, where the architect works with clients, planners, engineers, designers, builders, artisans, tradesmen etc etc to devise and build it, is a project that evolves, and that the second phase, where the building is moved through, lived in, used, enjoyed, hated, understood, modified by an unknown array of actors, will inevitably change it. However, somehow our (and Goethe’s) picture of the building remains static. As Bruno Latour puts it:

Everybody knows—and especially architects, of course—that a building is not a static object but a moving project, and that even once it is has been built, it ages, it is transformed by its users, modified by all of what happens inside and out side, and that it will pass or be renovated, adulterated and transformed beyond recognition. We know this, but the problem is that […] when we picture a building, it is always as a fixed, stolid structure that is there in four colours in the glossy magazines that customers flip through in architects’ waiting rooms.


Architects, however, rarely have much to do with phase two, except on an abstract level. And those who ‘perform’ the building – its inhabitants, rarely have anything to do with phase one. It’s as if the dancers met the choreographer and the piece at the first performance.

I was to say surprised and at first reading as may always be didnt quite internalise into my own understandings. But now I look at it again and let it digest its intriguing to think of buildings being ‘performed’. But thinking about it, this effects how we perceive the environment, like in communication theory meaning and understanding comes from transmission and individuals ‘versions’ mental schemes.

Pedestrians performing, the audience interacting with the performer, the building.

Yeah, more to come.

Goethe is also an author of Faust & the Sorrows of Young Werther (…like many sat on my shelf waiting to be read)

Oh and this looked interesting.

Examples of participatory practice – designed and found

Kelsey Snook and Melissa Mongiat (graduates) have launched a new website , a growing library of examples of participatory practice – designed and found.


About Chris Watson

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