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Sounds of the Streets: Immerse in Homelessness

Charlie Butterwick

November 2019



Sounds of the Street Concept image in-situ at Piccadilly Station, Manchester

When you get the chance to work with a fantastic client like Street Support, who are responsible for centralising support all of Manchester's homeless prevention efforts, you don't think twice. This project was a hugely collaborative effort undertaken to create a fantastic exhibition of artist, Olie Martin's, amazing soundscapes recorded when he experienced homelessness before coming to work for Street Support. Together with architecture students and academics from the Manchester School of Art who formed their own collective call WOAH (Without A Home), other architects from Hawkins\Brown, engineers from Civic Engineers and councillor Beth Knowles we designed a "sonic-canyon" to generate discussion about the under-appreciated sound of homelessness. We felt that so often we prioritise the visual aspect of the homelessness crisis, however, with this project we aimed to deprive people of visual stimulation to highlight the Sounds of the Streets.

The project was primarily designed by the students from the MSA in collaboration with Olie, we were asked to oversee and provide feedback on the student's schemes and technically resolve their concept schemes bringing them to fruition. We liaised constantly with Liam at Civic Engineers to address some of the key challenges that arose especially as we were unable to fix any of these very public free-standing structures to the ground but had to ensure that they were robust enough to withstand "normal" wear-and-tear associated with their location in a major national train station. Given the proposed size of the scheme we also had to work out how these structures would be assembled very quickly (i.e. in one night) and protect potentially expensive audio equipment from both damage and theft, all of which led us to WikiHouse as a potential solution. By utilising its quick and simple construction processes and intrinsic robustness we engineered a solution to all the competing problems raised by the student's design and the location.

This was a great experience and shows how much we excel at problem solving no matter what's thrown at us. Our greatest skill to encase elegant solutions to fascinating problems in beautiful ways. This is something common to every project we undertake. However, for us the biggest takeaway was how important it is to work with clients whose projects you believe in and whose values you share. This project was such a privilege to be involved in, if you or your community group/charity have an idea that you think could benefit from this approach we would love to hear from you.

Smiling Man on Laptop

Exciting new exhibition space in Liverpool Cathedral's Lady Chapel

The project has subsequently gone on to have a life of its own and is due to be featured in Liverpool's Light Night art extravaganza and will be hosted in the Lady Chapel of Liverpool Cathedral when this one-night-a-year exhibition returns after the end of lockdown and the Covid19 crisis.

Catch up on the project page for this exciting exhibition!

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