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ADS4: Party Animals

Sweta Solai Sanker

Sweta Sanker is an illustrator and architectural designer based between her hometown of Kuala Lumpur and London. She graduated from the University of Bath with a First-class Honours degree in Architecture in 2020 and was awarded the Malaysian Bronze Medal for her final year dissertation, entitled 'The Easton Circle'. Having completed her first year of her Masters degree at the Royal College of Art with ADS10 and her project entitled 'Rojak Central', Sweta has just completed her second and final year of studies with ADS4 under the studio's brief of 'Party Animals'.

Aside from architecture, Sweta is a keen advocate of empowering and advocating for the rights of children and women from disenfranchised communities. In 2019, she founded 'Swetects', a not-for-profit, graphic designing and illustrative platform that focuses on contributing and donating to charities and communities in need. Over the past 2 years, Swetects has managed to raise and donate over £2500 to charities such as Women for Women UK, CRASH, Dignity for Children Malaysia and GOSH Children's Charity. 

Show Location: Kensington campus: Darwin Building, Upper ground floor

Kid Fiction questions the existence and the ability to give agency to children through the methods of design, speculation and narration. Through a collaborative approach that involves the ideas of fictional world building and collective gameplay, the project focuses on the ideas of how we can better understand, value and empower children as individuals in their own right, rather than being seen as dependent beings in need of constant guidance and protection.

‘What would our cities look like if they were to be designed by children (of the Global Majority)?’

Through the use of speculation as a medium of engagement, the project challenges the outdated frameworks of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) and the architectural discourses within which we readily operate within. The project instead proposes the design of a new methodology that has the opportunity of expanding the agency of an architect beyond that of the RIBA Work Stages of 0 to 7.

Primarily aimed at equipping children with the tools and literacy to understand and shape their worlds around them, the project looks towards nurturing a long term civic engagement between children and their built environment. 

Network Diagram — What rights were children assured in 1990 and how far have we deferred from them?

According to the principles of the UN CRC, irrespective of one's nationality and wealth of citizenship, every individual below the age of 18 is assured the same set of rights, that is to be upheld by adults and political systems all over the world. One of the most substantial acts being Article 3, which states that when any decision is to be made about matters concerning children, they are to be done with ‘the best interests of the child’ in mind. 

Fast forward 30 years after the declaration of the UN CRC, and we see, on multiple occasions, how our systems have failed to account for and protect the children that we vowed to put first. Particularly with instances of political conflicts and wars, in which the interests and opinions of children heed no monetary gain. 

As a point of departure, the project questions Roger Hart’s Ladder of Children's Participation, which categorises the various methods one can use to actively engage children in a meaningful way. 

Foundational to the alternative methodology proposed is Piaget and Vygotsky’s pioneering theories on cognitive development in children. Known as the forefathers of child psychological development, Piaget and Vygotsky came to similar conclusions regarding the fact that children learn about the world around them through their interactions with it, more commonly known as constructivism. 

Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism emphasizes the importance of sociocultural learning; how interactions with adults and more capable peers, can actually help the child learn better through the zone of proximal development. This resulted in the development of an alternative diagram that challenges Hart’s ladder and represents my take on co-design, discussing the relationship that exists between participation and proximity.

My research argues that when designing engagement activities, we should be focussing on improving overall child-to-adult relationships, rather than just focussing on interaction levels between children or adults alone. Through this approach, both parties stand to gain individual benefits, whilst working towards a more equitable society.

The following film entitled, Abolish it! is an instructional guide to the proposed methodology, which uses architecture, drawing and fiction as an intergenerational medium for conversation.

Illustrating each of the children's fictional worlds should really allow the designer to unpack and analyse the various issues that are being raised by the children involved.

In this stage, the designer has to pay close attention to each and every element that is present, in both, the set of rules and the drawings submitted as these encounters highlight real-life conditions that the children are particularly affected by. Here, the designer has to individually analyse and meticulously illustrate each and every one of the children’s ideas. This stage is crucial in establishing a form of trust between the designer and the child for the next stage of activities. 

The act of personally drawing each and every world should really allow the designer to think critically and proactively about the context of the existing political and legislative agencies we abide by. 

Independent mobilityLocated in Notting Hill, this illustration speaks of an alternate form of reality where the London Underground is re-imagined as a public slide transportation system, known as the London Movingground. Equipped with bubbles of all shapes, sizes and filters, this imaginative way of transportation enables residents of all ages - from children to adults - to be able to independently move around London without the fears of safety or pollution.
Biodiversity extinctionTaking inspiration from the generic London grocery store, this illustration talks about how different High Street Kensington might look like if animals were seen as equal citizens of our cities. In this alternate reality, animals are left to prowl and live freely in their own habitats with little to no intervention from the human population. The built environment of human beings therefore only exists above a certain level, to avoid impeding the lives of the animals.
AgeismUsing music as an intermediary form of negotiation, this illustration proposes a new form of communication when it comes to parliamentary and local debates. Situated in the Natural History Museum, the image explores the possibility of children and adults in coming together to debate about topics that will affect both parties in a neutral and open space - with a DJ as the Speaker of the House.
Economic inequalitySet in the backyard of Kensington Palace in Hyde Park, this illustration depicts a reality where plant energy is used for power generation as a means of lowering the costs of living in central London. Based on research conducted in the fields of environmental technology and plant microbial fuel cells, several companies have started using plants as a source of energy generation. The process begins with bacteria and microorganisms breaking down the organic compounds which are found around the roots of plants.

The four final images, which form the cumulative result of the entire engagement activity, imagine alternative worlds of reality that have the potential of mitigating the series of problems identified by the children of Fox Primary in Kensington.

Through the use of fiction, the final illustrations offer a unique perspective into understanding the issues and needs which affect children on a more local scale, through the use of architecture and spatial design. These illustrations, therefore, act as a substrate that provides the designer with a means of conversation to communicate with children on a more equitable and local scale. Through these images, the project offers significant critiques surrounding the frameworks of our political and design systems that we readily operate within.

The next generation’s needs and demands are not radical or extremist; they are extremely necessary, and without challenging the frameworks of reference that we readily accept, such as the generalisation of the principles of the UN CRC, we are setting ourselves up to make nuance changes to much greater problems. 

Kid Fiction: The Portfolio
Kid Fiction: The Research Book