Designer's Lab

DESIGNERS LAB

Hosted and produced by 101 in partnership with Punchdrunk
Mon 21 to Tues 22 January 2019
101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space

This was the second in the 101 series of Creative Labs, looking at the role of the designer in outdoor arts and art for public spaces. This was a follow-on from the Directors’ Lab which took place in December 2018.

The ideas for this lab emerged from conversations between 101 and Punchdrunk’s senior producer, Colin Nightingale.

Colin has a long track record of working as a producer and production manager for ambitious outdoor arts projects, outside his role with the company. Punchdrunk had worked outdoors occasionally and were considering further explorations in public space.


Punchdrunk were interested creating an opportunity for their artists to learn from designers and scenographers working in outdoor contexts.

Simon Chatterton at 101 felt that there was much to be learned in return from Punchdrunk’s strong visual aesthetic, relentless attention to detail and focus on audience interaction and experience, in the creation of their immersive site-specific work.

It was felt that Punchdrunk could provide a provocation that would benefit both participants who were experienced in outdoor work, and their own company members who hadn’t necessarily worked outdoors. Punchdrunk were looking to develop their work outdoors, with a major project with HBO/Sky in the pipeline - The Third Day - which took place on Osier Island in Essex.

Colin Nightingale from the company brought various people from Punchdrunk to join the lab. He has a particular interest in how you can create more connection for the audience member to outdoor work – to be more than a passive observer, and in how all members of a production team can contribute to the creative process.

Sheets of paper pinned to the wall with discussion notes on them
Image of brainstorm notes from the Designers' Lab

The Lab was facilitated by Nick Sweeting using the Open Space technique, giving freedom to the participants to identify the themes they wanted to explore.

The lab was a fascinating exploration of where two different ways of making performance corresponded and where they differed – contrasting the extreme control offered by working in an immersive indoor environment where set could be built up over many weeks, with the unpredictability of working outdoors in urban or natural landscapes.

Despite these significant differences in context, a remarkable consensus emerged, that outdoor and immersive work share a surprising commonality in many aspects, and that the approaches to space and to audience evolved by Punchdrunk were closer to the perspectives of outdoor artists in many respects.

Topics covered in the lab included:

  • Location
  • Storytelling through Design
  • Journey
  • Intimacy of Scale and Detail
  • The Practicalities of Designing for Outdoors
  • Control

After two days of creative and lively discussion, it was decided to complete the workshop with a walk on Greenham Common.

The participants had been talking about how you need to work with and adapt to the outdoor environment you are working in – and nature provided a freak snowstorm for their walk which underlined the point!

Designers' Lab Handbook

Tara Williams of 101 created a full handbook from the Lab, documenting the discussions and including her own reflections on each session. View the pdf here

Download PDF

The Third Day: Autumn

Watch Punchdrunk's BAFTA nominated theatrical broadcast with Jude Law.

View webpage

Nick Sweeting

Read about the lab facilitator, Nick Sweeting, of Improbable.

Read bio