Porth Teigr is located in the Roath Basin area of Cardiff Bay, which was once the heart of Cardiff Docklands – the world’s busiest port in the nineteenth century. Today, the area is being redeveloped to include 1,000 new homes, 1.2 million square feet of commercial space and exciting new community facilities.
We’ve been working with Igloo – the sustainable developers behind the project – to explore how digital technology can enhance the way visitors and residents experience the Docklands. Part of our ongoing collaboration was Ideascape: Porth Teigr in September 2017. This experimental sandbox showcased concept and prototype technologies created by multidisciplinary community stakeholder groups, helping stimulate people’s imaginations about the type of place they wanted Porth Teigr to be.
Held in a public space in Porth Teigr, the open event was designed to attract local residents, workers and visitors to ten exhibits, each offering an idea for improving the experience of being in Porth Teigr. In turn, our researchers gathered feedback from participants via chalkboards, questionnaires and interviews with the Calvium team.
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Key for us was finding an engaging way to encourage new conversations among the Porth Teigr community – including residents, neighbours, architects and town-planners.
Below are the concepts presented at Ideascape – including the ideas behind them, the questions answered by them, and our thoughts on why they work well in the context of Porth Teigr, specifically.
Concept 1: Book This Space
Question: How can we make it easier for local residents to use publicly-owned spaces for projects or events?
Idea: Develop an online booking form & toolkit to enable residents to find, book and access public spaces in Porth Teigr.
- You’re organising a market for independent makers, designers and artists.
- You open the ‘Book This Space: Cardiff’ app and see a map of Cardiff highlighting the areas available for you to book.
- You decide on Porth Teigr and put in a request to reserve ‘Outer Lock Crossing Public Open Space’, adding in your event details, which in turn connects you with the relevant event licensing systems and the custodian responsible for the site.
- Once your event has been given the go-ahead, the app registers your event as booked and suggests other services you might find helpful, such as local caterers.
The culture of pop-ups and ‘meanwhile’ spaces captures public interest and can give lesser-used areas a new and vibrant feel. Often though, the process of using these spaces is difficult, because of a lack of information and public awareness that it’s possible. ‘Book this Space’ proposes a way to streamline the process, which could offer an opportunity for councils and owners of spaces to engage and generate revenue, while providing people with a platform to try out their ideas.
Concept 2: Past & Future Views
Presented by Zubr
Question: How can we visualise Porth Teigr’s history and future, in situ?
Idea: Build a pair of augmented reality sightseeing binoculars.
- You’re exploring Porth Teigr and see a newly installed set of sightseeing binoculars.
- On getting closer, you realise these look a bit different to the ones on the Barrage. The sign reads ‘Peer into the past and into the future’.
- Curiosity gets the better of you, and on pulling the lever the view moves from today to 1917, and then from 1917 to 2047, showing the changing face of the docks and surrounding area.
People loved interacting with this installation, which mixes the nostalgia of seaside attractions with the magic of seeing a landscape change before your eyes. The fact that you don’t need anything to take part was key, allowing anyone, smartphone user or not, to walk up and see the past and future of the area spring to life around them.
Concept 3: Porth Teigr Trail
Question: How can we reveal Porth Teigr’s history on site, and amplify the stories of Porth Teigr today?
Idea: A site-specific storytelling audio app that takes you on a journey around Porth Teigr, exploring its past and present in compelling ways.
- You’re getting ready for a walk around Cardiff Bay and, looking for things to do, you download the Porth Teigr Trail app and head out.
- With the app open, you encounter audio stories as you walk, including the amazing history of the Lock Keeper’s Cottage and the brilliant work of local cycling charity Pedal Power.
Audio trails are a great way to position people inside a narrative space. We used this app to broadcast the insights of business owners occupying Porth Teigr, while showcasing a narrative around Teigr Bay’s past to inspire the audience to think about its future.
Concept 4: Digital Town Crier
Question: How can we support independent businesses in Porth Teigr to market themselves?
Idea: A digital town crier announcing limited-quantity offers from local independent restaurants, cafés and shops.
- At 12pm, you hear the digital town crier tell you that there are half-price pies available at Coffi Co between now and 1pm, if you’re quick.
- You make your way to Coffi Co during this window of opportunity.
- You enjoy your tasty pie!
This demo gave new meaning to street furniture, making it useful to the community by encouraging passers-by to visit local businesses. The device was designed to look like a bright yellow nautical buoy, as a nod to the heritage of the area. The volume of the spoken adverts was quiet enough that only nearby visitors could hear its offers. The concept worked well. People approached, curious about the buoy, and had offers whispered to them as they got closer. This created an intimate interaction that was far more effective than we expected.
Concept 5: Connecting Physical & Digital Archives
Question: How can we connect Porth Teigr to its archival history?
Idea: An installation of archival objects, allowing immediate access to relevant digitised archival film, audio and photographs.
- You see a collection of archival objects dating from when Porth Teigr was at the heart of Cardiff Docklands.
- On getting closer, you see a sign prompting you to download the Porth Teigr app to unlock a layer of connected digital archival material.
- Within the app, you scan the objects to open up a piece of digital archival material from the local collection.
- Having enjoyed the film, audio recording or photograph, the app then directs you to enjoy other related archival material.
The idea is simple; connecting physical objects to relevant heritage audio or video, and the idea resonated with participants. When speaking about the Cardiff Bay area, there was a feeling that the history should be more visible (e.g. anchor chains, monuments to seafaring, shipping-inspired public artworks), so this seemed like a way to begin that process on a smaller scale.
Concept 6: Teleconfusion
Question: How can we connect communities either side of the Cardiff Bay Barrage?
Idea: Install a free telephone box on both sides of the Barrage, which connect only to each other – allowing playful ways to connect with someone you haven’t yet met.
- You’re sitting eating lunch in the Outer Lock Crossing (in Porth Teigr) and a phone, which you hadn’t noticed before, starts ringing.
- You pick it up and, prompted by the conversation starters painted on the phone box, start to chat with someone you haven’t met from the other side of the Barrage.
- Who knows what conversations might ensue!
Prompting people to be playful in public spaces is a great thing to strive for. Making this installation work in the long-term would require some consideration around minimising misuse and maximising the conversation-starting potential between neighbours.
Concept 7: Urban Rooms
Presented by The Architecture Centre
Question: How can we encourage citizens to actively engage with placemaking?
Idea: Provide a physical and/or digital ‘Urban Room’ in every city: a space where people can understand, debate and involve themselves in the past, present and future of where they live, work and play. At Ideascape, this was demonstrated as a work station, with prompts asking visitors to provide their thoughts on what makes a “good or bad space”.
The Urban Room was presented by The Architecture Centre, an organisation that works across the South West to engage people in design, architecture and placemaking.
People seemed to really engage with this idea, and in a way, it felt like the entire event was a kind of Urban Room. We were using postcards to get people to write down their thoughts, which became catalysts for the kind of engaged conversations that were sparked between participants, as well as members of the team.
Ideascape sparked valuable conversations and interest about what a digital layer to the neighbourhood might look like, bringing together developers, residents, neighbours, visitors and industry professionals. As urban spaces become more densely populated, the need for valuable conversations between these groups will be key to fostering and nurturing communities that grow. Events like Ideascape are one way to start these discussions.
We’ll be publishing a research report detailing our event findings, including interviews performed by the Calvium team. Sign up to our newsletter below to get the report when it’s published.