What is the “face” of your neighbourhood?

After months in lockdown, has your relationship to your neighbourhood changed? Have you discovered new places or surprised yourself with unnoticed parts of it? If you could give your neighbourhood a face, what would it look like?

Step by step

Step 1: looking closely, walking around and observing your neighbourhood

What you will need: camera/mobile phone camera and/or paper and pencil/pen.

Have you been walking around your neighbourhood more often lately? How does it look like?

What about going on an architecture hunt? What kinds of buildings are there in your neighbourhood? What are their shapes and colours? Which materials are they made of? Does any detail catch your eyes? Can you notice similarities among the buildings and constructions?

Maybe, when walking around, you can already ask yourself: if you could picture your neighbourhood as a face, which parts of these buildings would make it up? 

Take as many photographs (or make as many sketches) as you can! It will be nice to have at least a few options to choose from when you make the collage/drawing out of the images you collected. 

Top tip

You can also use a paper to help you frame your field of vision when looking closely at textures, shapes and details. Take a look at the instructions on how to make and use the frame:

Fold an A4 paper (210x297mm / 8,3×11,7”) in half, crease well and unfold it Cut the paper following the line where you have the crease to obtain an A5 paper (148x210mm / 5,8×8,3”). Fold the A5 paper in half again and cut a small square out of the centre of the folded paper. Unfold it and voilà: you have your frame!

Step 2: observing carefully: choose and print your photos [or simply download them to your computer if you prefer to work digitally]

What you will need: paper and printer and/or just a computer

If you have taken lots of photographs (or made lots of drawings), you may want to choose some of them to print (at least to start with; you can always – and you probably will – go back to them and print some other ones). Which of them do you like the most and in which you feel you can better recognise your neighbourhood?

Look closely and carefully at the shapes, materials, textures, colours and details you caught on your pictures. Can you still find elements that went unnoticed during your walk? Any surprises?? I am sure you will find some!

You can also start playing with your images and unleashing your imagination! While you take a look at them – even before you choose some to print out if you’d rather – you may want to explore combining some of them in different ways (you can try overlapping parts of them while hiding others, juxtaposing, rotating, etc.). This can help you define your first group of images! 

Step 3: exploring and finding opportunity: play with the images and create your neighbourhood’s face!

What you will need: printed photos/drawings, scissors, glue, and coloured paper, cardboard or something similar to be used as a support for your collage (or you can continue playing and creating digitally)

Now it’s time to explore and have fun! What is the face of your neighbourhood?

Start (or carry on, if you have already started it) playing with your images, keep exploring their features and experimenting with different arrangements!

Look at the shapes, materials, colours and textures you can find in your pictures. 

Thinking about your neighbourhood, observe and ask yourself: What could represent the skin of your neighbourhood? Did you find any patterns or similarities among the materials used on the buildings? What about the pavement? Are there any specific or special features about it? Are there any architectural elements and shapes that characterise your neighbourhood?

Observing these elements, go on another hunt now: do you see anything that resembles a nose? Or an eyebrow? Can you combine two or more elements to make a mouth? Would you add any accessories such as a hat, an earring, a tie or glasses that you think would help you to better picture your neighbourhood?

Expanding boundaries…

If you are up to it, you can create a “City Faces Set”, a group of images and architectural elements with which you can play, experiment and test different arrangements – either coming up with other faces for your own neighbourhood again (it might have many faces indeed!) or making new ones for other neighbourhoods in your city! 

What if we could picture the city landscape in an unfamiliar way? How many faces would we find if we looked carefully at it?

This activity was produced as part of our annual Open House Families festival. Open House Families is London’s architecture festival for children. It’s a hands-on and creative experience for children to explore architecture and their city through play. Through workshops and activities hosted by artists and architects, we give families the opportunity to imagine how they can shape their built environment in fun and creative ways. You can find more events occurring as part of the festival here: openhouselondon.open-city.org.uk/collections/7

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