2017 Inception Award | The Change Room


The phenomenon of fashion has become important for creating a sense of self. This project interrogates fashion consumption through a theoretical framework of embodied cognition:, the creation of self informed by memories constituted from place-bound sensory experiences, and in this case, the retail change room. The change room is a container designed to enable the act of trying on fashionable objects; and thus, multiple identities. We cannot but associate its intimate interiority to anything other than ‘dressing up’, or reinventing ourselves. It is an intrapersonal space where the self is fed by continually expressing individuality through a fashioned body. In this project, I take the spatial construct of the change room and reconfigure how it subjects our cognitive system to stimuli (looking at the self while constructing the self). My project translates individual decision-making processes about fashion into immersive visual manifestations that also challenge the norm of ego-centred interior environments. It disrupts unthinking fashion consumption by prompting an enriched consciousness about decisions made in relation to the body, the self, and the world we live in. Through this speculative intervention, I hope to better understand how retail experiences organise perceptions and behaviours, and develop as a conscious spatial practitioner.

The Change Room’ is a project that breaks down distinctions between design-led research and research-led design, by encouraging an ongoing relationship between the two. My experiences as an emerging spatial practitioner are informed by my own perceptions and behaviours, and my ongoing creative processes can be disrupted in order to produce new ones as a result of my theoretical research and spatial experiments I enact in response to them. This project is ultimately an exploration of who I am as a designer, and how I can change the way I act in the world. I do this through the lens of fashion, as it absorbs so much of my day. While I have been studying to be an interior architect, I worked as an art photographer, production stylist, and fashion model – and have a deep love of shopping! I therefore take my subject and site as myself, and have designed this project to articulate how I act in the world, and how consumption works through me.

A critical reflection of my consumption behaviour prompted me to undertake autoethnographic documentation of my daily dressing habits, and importantly, how I behave within the change room – where most consumption decisions are made. Through this methodology, I realized that the interiority of the space heightens attention towards the ‘self’, and that human experience is a confluence of what we derive from our bodily sensations. External stimulus is attended to by our embodied cognitive mechanism, ultimately forming the basis for our decision-making process. My research alludes to the idea that our built environment shapes and structures our nonconscious cognition. The brain works to translate lived experiences into a cognitive tool, storing mental images and emotions pertaining those experiences. More often than not, physical locations and places constitute the lived experience that make up these memories. The visual of a particular spatial construct prompts us to automatically revisit and recall an associative memory from our past to inform and facilitate a response in the present.

The project works to integrate autobiographical memory into a recontextualised interior space: the change room. New visual stimuli are embedded into the design of this space as a deliberate intervention to change my own behaviour. A series of mechanical panels comprised of timber frames and dynamic cable-strung pattern infills line the interior, while integrated flooring, ceiling, and lighting treatments mitigate the biologically-wired familiarity of a change room, which often over-inflates focus on ‘the-self’. The stimulation is created through moiré patterns, a visual disturbance formed by small perceptual differences. They carry a kinetic-like property that affects our view directly, challenging attention towards oneself so that the mind can once again make sense of the built environment. The patterns are visually absorbed through autobiographical memory, which recalls unconscious experiences of being in different change rooms. The moiré patterns rotate or slide on conditions defined by one’s consumption behaviour: for example, an increased number of garments brought into the change room increases the intensity of the patterns. This visual manifestation does not necessarily affect fashion consumption behaviour directly, but translates individualistic decisions into visual stimuli, which are then channeled back into the mechanism of my embodied cognition.

I have also speculated on how this approach might transfer to the future and what the experience of these recontextualised urban spaces mean for me as I wander through the consumption-obsessed city. The project has helped me understand the implications of our lived experiences within the built environment, and the complex architecture of embodied cognitive mechanism, which governs decision-making processes for consumption behaviour. Most importantly, I have reconfigured my consciousness as a consumer and future spatial practitioner.