Newsletter | Jul/Aug 2018

OWA EVENT: Somatic Design: How the Body Makes Marks: Toward a Somatic Shift in Architecture
by Bridget Basham

Galen Cranz, who is retiring from her long-standing position, Professor of Architecture at the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley, accompanied by Chelsea Rushton presented a Somatic Design workshop to a group of12 attendees on a Summer's Tuesday evening, in the mainly abandoned Wurster hall, College of Environmental Design. This workshop falls within a body of work and research for Galen.

Galen and Chelsea led the group in two drawing exercises that simply instructed that a building be drawn on one piece of paper and that a plaza be drawn on the other. This exercise was repeated, but importantly, punctuated by working in pairs. Couples took turns to gently touch the liver of one-another, from the back. Suddenly and quite deliberately, a loud noise was created, and participants felt and sensed the liver retreating.

Photo By Conyee Chan

Photo by Conyee Chan

In the drawing exercise that followed, the group observed that their drawing was more confident and sinuous; the page more full and often the perspective shifted, or became more focused on subject. I.e. there was a noticeable difference from the first attempts.

Photo By Conyee Chan

Photo by Conyee Chan

The evening was capped by visiting Galen's design-build project that is nearing completion this summer.

For anyone interested in reading more, please see Galen's paper, "Design and Somatic Experience: Preliminary Findings Regarding Drawing Through Experiential Anatomy" published in the Journal of Architectural Planning and Research (Winter 2014).

Galen Cranz is Professor Emerita of Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley. She received her doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago and is certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. She teaches social and cultural approaches to architecture and urban design. Emphasizing ethnography as a research method, she brings users' as well as creators' perspectives to our understanding of built environments. Currently, she is publishing a new text on the use of ethnography for designers, Ethnography and Space. Her teaching includes the point of view of different American cultures, as part of Berkeley’s American Cultures requirement. In 2011 she received the Career Award, the highest award of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA).

Chelsea Rushton holds a BFA with distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria and an MFA in Visual Art from the University of Calgary, and she is certified at the 500 hour level as a yoga instructor. She is the developer and instructor of Art of the Soul: Creative Process as Spiritual Practice, a special topics lecture, seminar, and studio course that profiles 20th century modern and contemporary artists who engage in art-making as a method of spiritual inquiry and practice. Her creative endeavors have been supported by the British Columbia Arts Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the University of Calgary’s Centre for Research in the Fine Arts, and Calgary Arts Development.

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