We are excited to unveil the winners of our inaugural international competition, challenging teams to “Eliminate Loneliness Through Design.” Organized in response to the global crisis of loneliness and isolation in the modern age, the competition aimed to demonstrate the power of architecture and design to tackle society’s pressing issues.
In the most interconnected, interdependent era of human history, one could be forgiven for thinking that the lives we lead are almost void of loneliness. However, we are experiencing a pandemic. In the UK along, 75% of doctors say they are seeing between one and five people per day suffering from loneliness, with up to 20% of all UK adults feeling lonely either most, or all the time.
Founded on the belief that design can be a vehicle for positive change, we asked what designers could do to eliminate loneliness.
The competition attracted over 70 submissions from 26 countries across the world. The three winners, seven honorable mentions, and thirty finalists range radically in scale and approach, from a strategic infill scheme in Tokyo to an initiative that uses recycled plastic modules to activate public squares.
Gandong Cai, Mingjie Cai
Loneliness is not Tokyo’s illness; it’s the status quo of the city. Given that loneliness is a comprehensive urban structural issue, the operative action should be in the scale of the whole city by applying a systematic approach — a new layer of spiritual infrastructure in the city that serves to everyone.
People who feel lonely may not necessarily reach out to a friend for help. They might prefer a “tree hole”: a target that can be easily found around you, will not respond or react to what you say, only provides a hollow space/enclosed shelter for anyone who wants to spend a couple of minutes with themselves.
We propose a plan of constructing Urban Tree Hole around Tokyo that provide small spaces in the city that those lonely individuals can enjoy being with themselves, with space, and with loneliness.
In our proposal, there are three typologies of Urban Tree Hole being inserted into Shibuya, the downtown of Tokyo, by either reinvigorating redundant store on the street side, creating a corridor between buildings, or excavating underground space.
In the space of Urban Tree Hole_01 visitor can enter a pop-up store where he can sit down and look at a street tree through the store window, and start a silent conversation with it. In Urban Tree Hole_02, the visitor will walk through the corridor between two skyscrapers in which the city view is blocked, but the sky is reflected by tilted mirrors on both sides of the corridor. Urban Tree Hole_03 is an underground space beneath the Shibuya Crossing which collects “invisible” Tokyo water through the run- off and utilizes the water to form a water feature for the visitor to immerse.
“I believe all big cities are missing places where individuals can stay by themselves. Everyone shares apartments, work space, etc. An author offers a good solution to the problem, peaceful urban spaces, filled with Japanese culture, where individuals can enjoy being alone.”
“Tackling loneliness by interacting with urban elements, specifically designed to do so. Very original idea and offering a way for many urban people. Beautifully designed.”
“Elegant, intelligent, emotional and enjoyably sad. The storytelling, as the visualisations hit the target. A project that demands a wider audience and another chapter.”
/ Canada /
When it rains, we intuitively look for some form of protection. Moments as such are often fleeting in nature and rarely opportunities for connection. However, what if we allow the fundamental laws of attraction and some degree of chance to dictate the boundaries of social interaction. Umbrellas are conventionally used singly in isolation but is there an opportunity to reimagine this everyday apparatus as a catalyst for connection with a simple modification that would allow them to attach to each other ad infinitum? Makeshift gathering spaces could form freely simply by the result of our proximity to one another.
“Love the simplicity of this idea.”
“This was a very witty take on the idea of community and collective, dynamic response to the environment. It also takes the idea of technology as a means through which togetherness and sharing is enabled.”
“Works. We know it. Simplistically brave and ambivalently sublime.”
Jan Sikora, Ewa Siostrzonek and Katarzyna Maliszewska
/ Poland /
MindCraft is a way to let people design their own environment manually from scratch. You can choose shapes, colors assigned to specific features and build together for yourselves and for others. The blocks are made from recycled plastic and are free to take in places located around the cities, next to public spaces. Some of them are so big, that building a structure is possible only with the help of others. Cooperation, which is the main pillar of the game, arise naturally but bonds the most. The spaces which are being created are fluent, always changing. What happens later inside made objects is up to the people. Our predictions include workshops, exhibitions, exercising, meditating and entertainment like concerts or public events.
The building, having in mind the colors’ assigned features, increases awareness and makes it easier to understand others, connect and empathize. MindCraft is a continuous, endless process which leads to healing our society.
“Love this idea! It’s a good try to have these spaces emerge in the city naturally with the people’s needs. Good chances to go global!”
“The action of building to bring people together is explored in a higher playful manner, clearly represented. The nature of producing architecture and social space through play directly addresses the competition theme and proposes that play should not be confined to children as a means of exploring possibilities.”
“Doing something together yes, but how to encourage? By offering building blocks and lego-ing them together?”