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Getting Lost & String Figures, Island Explorations

Urban Design and Research


Type: Urban Design and Research, Methods and Tools, TU Berlin /  Location: Halki-Turkey, Spiekeroog-Germany / Year: 2021

Work in Collaboration with Saskia Hirtz

Getting Lost: Unfolding Creative Thinking method focuses on unplanned and unexpected journeys, by the act of walking, wandering, strolling, and observing without having a final destination to explore and find new insights., String figures (SF) is an experimental method to collaboratively think thoughts and narrate stories in creative and imaginative ways as described by Donna Haraway. Inspired by the widely known practice of playing the string figures game, SF is a method of knowledge production and storytelling. It


Both, getting lost and string figures, are methods that oppose dominant ways of perceiving and explaining the world. They aim for an alternative production of knowledge –knowledge that is embedded in personal observations and specific situations. They are thereby valuable contributions to the depiction of different and overlapping realities of lived spaces. This makes them very relevant for urban design.


While applying the methods, we could identify a set of similar techniques present in both methods, so as to enable a broader perception. One technique is to remain open during the entire research process and to explicitly search for the unplannable and for the surprise. Another technique is to incorporate personal experiences into the research. These could be experiences made at the moment, but also experiences made any time before, or experiences that you think someone else may have made. Also, in both methods, it is possible to include imagination and associations as legitimate knowledge in the research.


Different senses and emotions play an important role in both methods. SF and getting lost are synergetic concepts with many overlapping techniques and similar expectations. Getting lost can thereby be considered a starting point for applying SF afterward, as we did in our own application. It could, however, also be interpreted as a string figure on its own. The idea of getting lost is inscribed in the whole idea of string figures in the sense of being open to discovering something new. In the other direction, the idea of overcoming hierarchies between humans and non-humans could be an interesting addition to applying getting lost in an inter-species kind of way. Combinations are also possible, where roleplays as applied in SF can be combined with getting lost to explore spaces out of the personal experience of chosen non-human actors.

The methods are applied in two islands, one is Halki in Turkey, and the other is Spiekeroog in Germany, to focus on comparable situations.

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