Find a subject and an issue that can be resolved with design.
In today’s world, storms are more and more violent, but are people aware of this? What do they do to be resilient? How do they act when a storm is coming? And when it is hitting? My reading and interviews with experts allowed me to expose some important facts:
Dwelling and population increase from 1968 to 2009 at Lesconil. Source: INSEE
I chose Lesconil because I have a holiday home in this city and used to spend all my summers there. Knowing the city and surrounding areas was an advantages while doing research and gathering information. Moreover, this small town is dear to my heart because of its people, history and culture, so I wanted to honour it.
Located near the sea, Lesconil is a small marina in south Finistère, in Brittany. Its main activity is tourism and are a result, a lot of bars and restaurants are located around the port. It also has different beaches on both sides of the port, and different promenades are available to visit the coastlines and surrounding areas. Due to its southern coastlines, Lesconil is often exposed to violent winds coming from the south-west.
Doing research, following trends and continuously looking at new projects is the life of a designer. We have to always be curious, keen to learn more every day, no matter the topic. This mindset allowed me to collect data, learn the context of the topic, and understand the stakeholders' concerns.
It is very important to collect data and have different kinds of sources. I read a lot of online articles and newspapers, studied books and interviewed a lot of people. In Lesconil, I talked to roughly twenty local people, but also the tourist office, the Mayor of Lesconil, the town hall urbanist, the sailing center, and local bars and restaurants. Furthermore, I interviewed people outside of Lesconil, to gather tourist and expert opinions. I created a survey for the tourists and spoke to some experts, like geographers, CNRS (translation: Scientific Research National Center) research workers, geologists, architects, designers and developers. After gathering a variety of information, I organised it and kept what was the most important. You will see some examples below of my discoveries and the conclusions that I derived.
Knowing the exact meaning of a word and what it will mean for other people is imperative - especially when it comes to the words related to your subject. It is also important to gather more information and learn about the context.
Metropolitan France is composed of 5,500 km coastlines, which represents 6% of the territory and where 12% of the population lives.
The most common scale to index wind speeds is the Beaufort wind force scale. It classifies winds according to their impact both on land and at sea. Beaufort scale includes thirteen levels, going from calm (0) to hurricane (12). This can vary from a perfect mirror sea to complete devastation, hence the importance of knowing these surrounding winds that are invisible, yet can turn out to be extremely violent.
12 Hurricane (more than 118 km/h)
11 Violent storm (103 to 117 km/h)
10 Storm (89 to 102 km/h)
9 Strong gale (75 to 88 km/h)
8 Gale (62 to 74 km/h)
7 Moderate gale (50 to 61 km/h)
6 Strong breeze (39 to 49 km/h)
5 Fresh breeze (29 to 38 km/h)
4 Moderate breeze (20 to 28 km/h)
3 Gentle breeze (12 to 19 km/h)
2 Light breeze (6 to 11 km/h)
1 Light air (1 to 5 km/h)
0 Calm (less than 1 km/h)
As my subject was focused on storms, I decided to expand my research on this category, as well as the even stronger categories (violent storms and hurricanes). When these winds rage, trees are uprooted, infrastructures suffer considerable damage, and big floods and power cuts can happen.
I read the PPRL of Lesconil and the surrounding areas. I discovered several risk zones around Lesconil and I created a map to highlight them.
Campings are very fragile habitats because they are all located in flood hazard or flood risk areas, which make them very vulnerable to wind. Furthermore, the coastlines, which are the barriers between the sea and the land, are very eroded due to several storms. Located nearby the campings and the flood risk areas, they can become very dangerous.
I had prepared some questions related to the Beaufort scale to know if the users had any knowledge about the different wind categories, and if they knew the damage they might cause.
“Walking on the coastline calms me down, so I go there even if there is a strong gale.”
Camille. Casual tourist
“The terms of Beaufort scale aren’t nuanced enough.”
Sandrine. Permanent resident and waitress at Le Bistrot du Port
“We are used to strong gales!”
Alexandre. Permanent resident and employee of the nautical center
“When there is wind, we just bring our outdoor furniture back home.”
Nicole. Seasonal inhabitant
“It’s spectacular! I love seeing it.”
Geneviève. Seasonal inhabitant
“I have issues visualizing the speeds of Beaufort scale.”
Matthieu. Casual tourist
On Instagram, I was following the account @bretagnetourisme which has 77,6 K followers. I was very surprised (in a bad way of course) by this story and what people replied. It asked “Would you like to be there?” and 94% people answered positively.
In this picture, people had very severe damage to their home and potentially lost someone in the storm. Moreover, they used the picture for advertising and it will make people think that it is a spectacle - they will want to see this in person because it looks so beautiful , but they will be exposed to a huge danger, especially because they are not prepared.
As my interviews and the existing tools weren’t enough to gather all the information I needed, I created my own design tool: a card game. The purpose of this game is to know what knowledge people have of winds and the Beaufort scale (as the terms are used on the news). I created thirteen cards with numbers going from 0 to 12, representing the thirteen different wind categories, and I did the same for the names of the winds, their speeds, and their impact on the sea and land. When I interviewed users, I drew one wind name and they had to find the four related cards.
I draw one card with a wind name, and the user has to find the right related cards - its speed, its consequences on sea and on land, and its number on the Beaufort scale.
Margaux. Casual tourist
L’Escale Café boss. Permanent resident
Volunteer firefighter. Permanent resident
Bistrot du Port waitress. Permanent resident
I did this game with twenty people and none of them managed to get all answers correct: 40% had no correct answers, 20% had one correct card, and 40% had two correct cards. That means that people don’t have good knowledge of the winds, even if they thought they did.
I printed pictures of a storm. People have to guess out what kind of wind it is, and also find the four other related cards. Similar to the other game, people overwhelmingly didn’t get the right answers.
From this research, I identified different problems and decided to focus on the following question:
How can we prepare coastline populations for storms?
Explore, create and iterate on designs,n and conceive three distinct concepts. This second phase was in the form of posters, one to summarize the first phase and one for each concept. Additionally, I had to conceive small models for each concept. It was also allowed to display booklets and other useful artifacts: I displayed my card game, a map booklet and a technical drawing details booklet. Because we were not allowed to defend our work in person, and the jury only allocated ten minutes per student, everything had to be concise and accurate. During this second phase, I also kept interviewing users and new experts, asking them their opinion on my ideas.
All students were exhibiting in the same room so every one of us only had one dedicated panel and one table to present our project. The poster that you can see on the left is a reminder of the research work during the first phase.
Concept 1. Stormy Experience
Concept 2. Modular Shelter
Concept 3. Wind Universe
Combining Modular Shelter and Wind Universe concepts.
After this conceptualization phase, I decided to focus on educating people about the risks, to better prepare them for the next storm. Hence this reformulation of the problem:
How should we prepare coastal populations for storms?
How can we educate people that are fascinated by the risks, and protect them?
I chose to call my project Wind Universe (from the third concept) because people can clearly understand the name and what it is about. As shown in the concept posters, the idea is to convert the Sémaphore into a storm shelter, and come up with creative interior designs for this space.
The Sémaphore is based at a strategic location (cf. Poster Wind Universe), outside of any risk areas (as shown in the PPRL). Built in 1804, it used to warn sailors of strong gales, and it proved its sustainability. Renovated in 2000 by the city hall to create offices, it was turned into an exhibition hall in 2010.
Learning risk through experimentation.
Use people’s fascination with risk to give them a good to improve their awareness of the risks.
01. Spark people’s curiosity with interactive projections on facades.
02. Experience the effects of wind firsthand by going through an immersive experience.
03. Create awareness of the Semaphore's function as a storm shelter.
People’s attention is drawn to a movement taking place onto the Sémaphore facades. Intrigued, they come closer and discover that old storms are projected. On the other facade, they can interact with the mapping through sensors and have information in real-time about today’s winds in the world.
In the first picture, the Wind Universe experience takes place. A wooden interactive model representing the Lesconil coastlines is displayed on an adjustable high table. A leap motion (motion sensor) is integrated inside this model to catch the user’s hand movements. On the screen before the user, a representation of Lesconil coastlines appears and depending of their movements, it will show the damage that could be done. The other room on the right is dedicated to a local artist.
The user’s hand movements control the wind’s movements.
Layout of the space.
Rendering of the space.
Adjustable acoustic panels on wheels are displayed around the room to have a fully immersive experience. The prop is also height adjustable to raise awareness for all ages. The idea of the leap motion comes from Stéphane Buellet, artistic director of Chevalvert that I contacted about this. In the future, a developer would need to work on the modelization.
Model with integrated leap motion
Translates hand’s movements to wind movements
Sends data to
Starts Unity / World Machine program
Shows it through
Launches damage visualization in real time
Prototype of the model.
While they were on their way to the beach, Marie and her father are attracted by the mappings on the facade.
They want to know more so they come inside and go through the Wind Universe experience to learn more about storms.
Components inside the two rooms highlight the fact that the Sémaphore can be turned into a storm shelter. It will make users understand that they can go there if they are surprised by a storm, or are located in the campings nearby during a flood.
In the exhibition room for local artists, users can be drawn to furniture components such as ladders, handles, and drawers.
Marie and her father visit the other exhibition of a local artist.
They discover the components in the furniture that show them it can be turned into a refuge.
The refuge is made for 14 people. Storms usually strike during the winter, when there are not so many people around in Lesconil. If it happens during the summer, the most fragile people can be moved here while the others will have to wait for the firefighter to take them to the sports club a few kilometers away - as is the current response to storms. People will have a manual at their disposal to show them how to use the space. I created a bathroom and kitchen area in the former offices which can be hidden to the public using sliding panels. Those seeking refuge will have everything that they need, and they can get privacy using integrated curtains for the beds and customizable panels in the bathroom. The Wind Universe room can be used as a social space, while the other room can serve as a dining and sleeping area.
Layout of the space when it is a refuge.
When there is a storm, people feel fearful and need to be in a friendly atmosphere. They can shift the acoustic panels to create private spaces to talk with others. They can pull some seats from below the screen and place them wherever they like.
Rendering of the social area.
Living room space.
Users can unfold bunk beds and tables from the wall that is usually used to hang pictures and installations. They can also replace the artistic installations with chairs that are stored in a cupboard in the other room. Underneath the bunk beds, they have a push-to-open drawer with a pillow and a sleeping bag. They also have some accessories that they can plug into the panel in the bathroom to freshen themselves up.
Rendering of living room area.
People can be informed about a storm using a luminous signal places where the old telegraph used to be. Previously, this was used to warn sailors.
Once inside, they can put the artistic installations inside the cupboard to avoid damage , and to have more space.
Users can move the acoustic panels on wheels to create small private areas for discussion.
They can unfold the tables from the wall to eat.
The kitchen can be revealed behind the sliding panels, where some canned food is stored, provided by the city hall.
TThanks to a panel with holes, the bathroom can be customized. Additionally, it is cleaner for people to have their own toiletries.
I couldn’t include everything that I worked on, so feel free to contact me if you want more info.
Written at the same time as my end of studies project, my thesis dives into different aspects of the wind - its negative but also positive points. It is only in French, but if you are interested, please click on the link below.