Communication, State-change and the Comfort of the Mall




“Someone she loved once passes by – too late to feign indifference to that casual nod. ‘How nice’ et cetera. ‘Time holds great surprises.’ From his neat head unquestionably rises a small balloon… ‘but for the grace of God…’”

In The Park, Gwen Harwood



The morning glance out of our hotel window, revealed a grey blanketed landscape, the fog hanging so low and dense over Dalian that the tops of the buildings were obscured. This descending haze seemed to exacerbate our feelings of impending doom.

From hotel room to class room, our mood lifted, buoyed by the excitement of the task at hand. The 5×5 exercise got everyone’s minds ticking and we began to articulate our feelings about the site and our hopes for it.

Building our model prototype, clarified that vision and we all played and created like children making things for the first time. Our appropriation of every day materials for the model, made communicating our ideas easy; Chinese and English becoming the universal language of the imagination.

Out of the comfort zone again and back to the site for empathy interviews, the fog now so low that people walking in the streets eerily disappeared into the ether. Our communication was a little limited at this point, as the empathy interviews were conducted in Mandarin, but it was important to be present and see the local residents in their home environment, to better understand their needs as stakeholders in our project.

Surprisingly, most people we interviewed wanted a shopping mall on the site. We were a little sceptical of this response initially dismissing it as materialistic. Then after a frosty hour of walking the neighbourhood, we all piled back into the bus and headed straight for… the shopping mall! Our hypocrisy mounting as we sipped hot chocolate, comforted by the brightly lit avenues of stuff.

The power of state-change was never more evident as when we wandered that mall, the dichotomy of urban Chinese life in one short bus ride.




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