5 Main Principles of Universal Composition
The concept of Universal Composition - the multi-sensorial design of our urban environment in space and time - is based on 5 main principles, as described below.
1. Universal composition
Behind the term ‘universal
composition’ is the idea that it promotes inclusivity and is accessible to everyone. The
term ‘universal design’ has been used by architects and designers to mean "the
design of products and environments to be usable to the greatest extent
possible by people of all ages and abilities" . However, rather than viewing
the urban environment as a static built object, we view
it as a dynamic one of urban systems connected in time and space.
Through the term ‘universal composition’, we hope
to emphasise the fact that, even when implemented, a design continues to evolve
with time. Composition, used most
commonly in relation to music, highlights this temporal dependency, which is critical
to composing our urban movements and interactions. Thus
rather than designing, we propose the ‘composition’ of urban interactions –
from detailed urban design experiences to transport flows - in space and time. Like a piece of music, we anticipate that such a compositional
approach will lead to an urban environment greater than the sum of its design parts.
In the composition of
dynamic interactions and evolving environments, we aim to shift the
perspective of the urban environment, not as an object, but rather as a process.
Each urban intervention, whether a piece of street furniture or a new tramway, is
both a product and a process. For example, a bus stop is traditionally
conceived as a static design element, i.e. product, while functionally it is a part
of a dynamic process i.e. the bus system itself. Thus we hope to shift the
focus of urban design elements as an end in themselves, to elements within a
dynamic and evolving process, i.e. they are simultaneously a product and
Integral to our compositional approach is
the realization that our reality, current or future, is defined by our perception
of it. We can only understand the world that we are able to perceive, and each
of us has our own version of ‘reality’ according to the power of our individual
senses. Many of us are disabled in one or more of our main senses of sight,
hearing, taste, touch and smell. Thus addressing more of these senses would
help contribute towards creating more accessible environments. In composing
multisensorial environments, synesthesia – the simultaneous linking of multiple
senses  - can also assist us in composing a multisensorial world.
However, there are many other senses that inform
our perception, such as the sense of right and wrong. At the Universal
Composition Laboratory, we question what is a sense and ask how we can design
environments which ‘feel’ good rather than simply ‘look’ good. In order to do so, we propose a multisensorial approach informed
by neuro and cognitive science while utilising creative HCI technologies. The
goal of universal composition is to create a future city which is perceivable
and understandable to everyone.
The composition of such
multisensorial interactions must be informed by a wide
range of expertise – from architecture, urban design, and engineering, to
music, art, neuroscience and human computer interaction design. UCL-squared
hopes to compose future urban interactions by transcending disciplines.
As an academic institution, we are
currently in the process of developing a transdisciplinary post-graduate Masters degree (envisioned for September
2015) aimed at connecting graduates and professionals of any discipline(s), informing
a more comprehensive view of the world. We hope that exposure to a broad
range of disciplines will help promote learning between them, leading to the
development of a common language. Graduates
would implement interactive and transdisciplinary design interventions in society,which
will inform both design research and application.
Finally, we are convinced that we cannot compose
equitable and meaningful environments without community involvement. In order
to make a positive contribution rather than unwanted imposition, we aim to work
collaboratively with society. With communication being the key to
understanding, we employ a diverse range of representation techniques, including
music, drawing, dance and film, in order to effectively engage with as many
people as possible. By doing so, we hope to better understand society’s
aspirations and thus design for them.