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This essay investigates the creative approaches of how body–space relations can be enhanced in a design studio through the exploration of fantastic spaces. ‘Fantastic’ is defined as an ‘open work’ with reference to modern literature and a ‘fantastic space’ as an inventive ground that is neither real nor unreal, standing as a paraxial region. This essay analyses a first-year design studio on Fantastic Space; it considers how the content was explored by students, what they designed, and the diverse design approaches that emerged.
In the studio, students analysed the spaces and characters of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, Spirited Away (2001) and reassembled the narrative of the animation by using architectural tools to prepare two- and three-dimensional representations of their designs. Focusing on body–space relations, the studio employed a critical approach to anthropocentrism and discussed human and non-human agencies within a body–space context. In its pursuit to challenge traditional dynamics of spatial representation, the project encouraged creating experimental works inspired by the unlimited potential interpretations of Miyazaki’s fantastic world. A content analysis of the designs of 156 students using both qualitative and quantitative methods was applied to analyse students’ conceptual and spatial
productions. The analysis reveals three key design strategies to categorise the students’ projects: character-based, space-based, and story-based approaches. The unique and overlapping qualities of these approaches were determined by reviewing the time–space and body–space relationships represented in the students’ projects. In this way, the imaginative, diverse re-imaginings of their designs reveal the value of using fantastic spaces to encourage high student engagement and creative studio results.
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