Cycle Surfing Soho Hunt encouraged travelers to walk into the curated narrative and support the fabric of the local culture through cycling in the Soho district of central London. The project won 1st Prize of The Store WPP Retail Futures Competition in London in 2015.
How Does It Work
Cycle Surfing Soho Hunt is an experience that encourages Couch Surfers, as temporary visitors, to discover the activities of local people that the surfers might not otherwise know about. The project will transform Couch Surfers from local culture onlookers into genuine supporters of grass roots cultural activity.
This experience is organized around Santander cycle docking stations in Soho and invites visitors to engage with the area through cycling.
Delivered through events, sound installations via iBeacon technology and specially designed bike locks, the experience deploys the metaphor of ‘unlocking a secret’: participants search for padlocks near Santander docking stations which, when found, will allow them to unlock hidden stories of Soho.
The project aims to articulate the message to the government, planners, developers and other actors in the development of Soho that it is human activities, rather than luxury flats and chain stores, what give Soho its unique value.
Cycle Surfing Soho Hunt takes urban play as the main approach to highlight the importance of cultural landscapes in urban development. The project aims to support the Save Soho Campaign, whose goal is to maintain the area’s character by revealing the layers of narrative embedded in the area.
According to the research, increasing rent in Soho is pushing out small, local and alternative businesses, which means Soho is gradually losing its uniqueness.
Travellers, however, bring business to Soho, but what they seek is not a bland, sanitised, residential area, but the character and local characters of Soho, the heart of contemporary British culture.
Therefore, Cycle Surfing Soho Hunt intends to test the concept that cycling for exploration in the city can be encouraged through urban play in the context of local narrative.
I worked as an Interaction Designer, creating digital and physical spatial experience for the participants to play and engage with the curated environments in Soho area.
During the development process, I also collaborated with a group of professionals from the industry:
Anna Lam, Content Development
Ashley Buttle, Content Development
Daisuke Nakazawa, App Development
Georgios Leontiou, Product Design
Hoshimi Takiguchi, Graphic Design
Ling-Yi Lo, Concept Development
Shih-Yi (Jacquetta) Wang, Spatial Design
Vania Kristiani, Concept Development
Yaxi Liu, Concept Development
It is a 6 months design project starting from 3 research questions:
1. How can young travelers experience the rapidly changing environment in Soho from the local people’s perspective?
2. Can cycling for exploration in the city be encouraged through storytelling and urban play?
3. Can a designed experience help support the Save Soho campaign by highlighting the layers of narrative which make up the area?
Increasing rent in Soho is pushing out local small and alternative business which means Soho is gradually losing its uniqueness. Travellers bring business to Soho but what they seek is not a bland, sanitised, residential area but the local characters of Soho, the heart of contemporary British culture.
A Narrative Hunt in Soho
An experience designed for cyclists who search for specially designed bike locks near Santander docking stations to unlock hidden stories of Soho
Interactive Lock Design
The device can be considered as an outdoor audio guide embedding iBeacon technology in Soho. Everyone can meet the storytellers from local retail shops and have further conversation after joining the treasure hunt event.
Couch Surfers and local people come together to create their city space
Bottom up city development challenges traditional rules of urban planning often dictated by city planners. The city is a living laboratory, ensuring anyone can be a city-maker just by setting up an interesting temporal project to test and improve the environment. Cycle Surfing Soho Hunt is an example of this. It also gives the participants a glimpse of how the experience works and allows them to reflect on their roles within an urban space.
Voicing Caution to the Actors in the Soho District
The project intends to speak to the government, planners and developers who are the players in the development of Soho. When these authorities increase rent, welcome international gigantic chain stores, build up luxury flats and make new transport plans, such as Crossrail 2, they should think about the reasons people are attracted to Soho and want to experience it. What makes the place interesting and unique? People attract people, so planners need to invest more in the human implications of decision making rather than transforming the area into merely income generating construction.
Maintain the Characters of Soho
The aim is to encourage people to join the online petition to ‘Save Soho Campaign’ and engage in the public consultation of Crossrail 2 in the Autumn. The proposed plan of Crossrail 2 is to knock down Curzon Soho to make space for a new station. In order to maintain the character of Soho, the project urges people to look into the development of the area and voice their opinions on the planning.