Central St Martin’s x Charterhouse

How do you interpret a place?

Participating Students:

MA Industrial Design: Bharat Chaudhary / Anlan Chen / Joao Carvalho

MA Material Futures: Aileen Ling / Ingrid Rautemberg

MA Furniture Design: Romen Gouveia

The brief given to us was to critically look at the understanding of a “place” as a complex spatial system through its occupation, interpretation and communication. We were asked to design and implement an interruption to create new critical possibilities for understanding, interpreting and recounting a place.

Our group was given Charterhouse Square as the site for our installation. We had the chance to visit Charterhouse museum, where we learned about the rich history of the area. From initial observation, the square itself seemed quite peaceful with a few lunchtime visitors. We were therefore shocked to discover that the site was originally founded as a Black Death burial ground, this soon became the base of our research and installation.

Through research, we discovered that the Black Death, tragic though it was, may have resulted in some positive outcomes. It sparked the progress of human society in a number of areas including the rise of humanism, the establishment of hospitals and public health systems as well as the development of the perfume industry.

For the installation, we developed three main goals based on our discoveries:

  1. A public drama/performance at the Charterhouse square creating general awareness of the history of the site.
  2. Generating awareness in regard to the positive milestones that arose from the events that occurred in the history of Charterhouse square.
  3. Promoting respect for the victims of the plague whose remains lay the foundation of the present day contemporary green space at the Charterhouse square.

We were drawn to the fallen leaves on the site, as they strongly symbolize the cycle of life and death. As the trees grew from the earth in which the bodies were buried, we thought the idea of creating visual graves in the middle of the park could be used to appropriately generate awareness of what lay in the foundation of the square . The fully black costume of the actor coupled with the respirator mask were symbolic of funeral dress and quarantine. Physically, the graves were made out of the dead leaves hence camouflaging the square’s scenic appearance yet standing out as an element of importance and attraction in itself.

Playing on the idea of scent and sickness, we used costume to connote quarantine and perfume. We wore medical and breathing masks during the performance. Using a combination of air fresheners and small paper slips, reminiscent of perfume samples, we informed curious passersby about the history of the site and some of the positive outcomes that developed from the plague.





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