UBC Graduate Research

Designing Stories : A Narrative-Driven Design Process for Architecture Lum, Theresa


This thesis proposes that narrative can bring richness and depth to a architectural project, and that there are unexplored ways that narrative can be used in the design process. I suggest that drawing from the discipline of film production design, which is a process that is already centered on storytelling, can offer a new working method for architecture. Using production design as a template for the design process allows narrative to be the foundation of a design, creating a new lens through which to see storytelling in architecture. In production design, the script is the client – the design is completely centered on storytelling, with each design tool being used to help tell a story. Key to designing a film’s story is the process of world building. This process begins with the creation of mood and the development of characters, using tools such as colour, light, scale and pattern. In architecture, narrative is often used to frame a project or to describe how a project operates, but is not at the core of the design process, guiding the design decisions, as is the case with production design. Through an investigation into how the process of production design can be translated into an architectural project, this thesis expands the conversation between narrative and architecture, and the relationship between architecture and film. This project uses the production designer’s narrative tools – namely world building, mood and character – to weave multiple storylines through a site, allowing these stories to shape the design and shift the perception of the resulting built forms. The site chosen for this exploration is Cooper’s Green Park in Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia. In the following design process, I use the design of five architectural interventions to support three different stories, in a way that can be changeable from one narrative to the next. Through the architecture, this project creates moments that highlight the narratives’ story worlds – their mood and their characters. We experience and frame our lives in stories, and architecture will always be part of those stories. I believe it is worth exploring new ways of developing architecture through narrative.

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