STORYCORPS -
'SARAH & YOMI'

In 1972, Sarah Churchill was pregnant with her third child, who had a rare disorder which caused bones to break under the slightest pressure. 

Sarah and her daughter Yomi recorded an episode with StoryCorps about their daily experience with 'Brittle Bone' disease, which can fill the slightest of movements with apprehension.

I worked with their story to craft a spatial experience that focuses on design for visitors' senses to simulate the physical delicacy required in Yomi's everyday life.

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SENSORY DESIGN DECISIONS

After breaking down Yomi and Sarah's story, there were a few key moments that stood out as evocative summaries of either their sensory or emotional experiences living with Brittle Bone Disease.

 

These phrases formed the foundation of the experience I wanted visitors to have in the space, which I used for my initial concept sketches.

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Sound Design - Chimes

Mousetrap-like 'chimes' fill the space, made of simple foam board and wood, with a trigger that causes its panels to snap together at the slightest touch producing a 'crack' sound.

 

The physical fragility of the chimes simulates the uncertainty of the daily routine Yomi describes, where every movement holds the

possibility of danger.

Both a fracture and a chime 'snap' are often heard before they are felt or seen, creating a sense of anxiety from the sound due to knowing what follows it. 

Visibility - Hiding Chimes

Design of the space aimed to intensify the impact of the 'chimes'. Using dramatic lighting and shadows creates a space both exciting and ominous, as well as hiding the number of chimes in the shadows waiting to snap.

The space also aimed for a sense of stillness with transparent thread - to create the illusion that the chimes were floating. Reflectiveness of concrete floor tiles and brass on the walls (multiplying the illusion of 'endless' floating chimes) creates a still that makes the sound of fractures even more intense by contrast.

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VISITOR JOURNEY

The visitor experience for StoryCorps consists of the attraction of people to the space, introduction of the space and the ‘Sarah & Yomi’ context, the main engagement, and finally the exit or conclusion.

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The pacing of the space was crucial, trying to keep the journey short but impactful. Having tension through the whole process, just as Yomi has during her everyday actions, required giving visitors little to no time to pause.

SPACE FORM DESIGN

The project constraints were a 15x15 ft box, requiring a spatial layout that felt immersive and larger than it actually was, while still being easily navigated.

 

Disorientation and stress were part of the experience’s takeaways, but not the only ones, so neon strip lights and slats for sunlight were used to illuminate parts of the space.

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PARALLEL VIEWS

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SITE SKETCH

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SKETCH ITERATIONS

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INT. VIEW 02

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Designing for underutilized senses in combination with each other can create unexpected, novel interactions for visitors.

Even smaller details in a designed space, such as material and lighting, can contribute significantly to how visitors interpret a total experience.