Clare+Hughes+copyright+John+Dawson

Creative Director at Thinc, an exhibition and museum design studio in New York City. Formerly Partner in award-winning architecture practice Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, London.

As a partner with architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios in London, and now as Creative Director with exhibition designers Thinc in New York, my first question is always ‘how can we tell a story using three-dimensional space?’. My second question is: ‘What can this project really DO?’ Design, storytelling, place-making are all in service of the people who live, visit or work in our buildings and historic sites, and they are so many tools to enhance our lives and build connections within and across our communities.

Sometimes the storytelling is part of an innovative creative reuse project like the Southbank Centre. Here, the utopian origins of the site had to be re-animated to unite the whole site and create a stronger sense of place. Story is at the heart of the astonishing evolution of Alexandra Palace, creator of immersive spaces before that word was even invented. A popular entertainment hall in the 19th century, home to the BBC Studios in the 1930s and today a thriving venue for music, fairs and festivals.  Both these projects have place-making at their heart; bold and ambitious providers of community connectivity and cultural capital.

I am currently absorbed in finding new ways to tell the compelling story of the American modernist Georgia O’Keeffe in New York and New Mexico, experimenting with creating a sense of drama and transformation within the usually calm and quiet spaces of an art museum. Our work goes beyond the museum walls to draw people out into the arid landscapes of New Mexico that inspired the artist throughout her long life.

My practice combines place-making, innovative narrative play, film-making and spatial experiences. I think of form, volume, light, materials and surfaces, and the relationships between all of these, as so many characters and plot-lines in a great film or novel. So architecture and film have more in common than you might think, and for me the bridge has always been to find the essence of a good story in all of them. A story with boots on.

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