Project E

Meaningful Contact: Creating Spatial Experiments


Principal Investigator

Professor Gill Valentine –

Research Fellow



Drawing on an evidence-base from LiveDifference projects A to D, and working with spatial consultants and students from the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield, the LIVEDIFFERENCE team developed radical spatial experiments to create ‘meaningful contact’. The aim of the spatial experiments was to: increase interaction across ‘difference’ through activity, whilst encouraging participants to reflect on how space influences encounters; and to explore how creating opportunities for people to come together and participate in the construction, adaptation or subversion of a space might facilitate ‘meaningful contact’ to occur. This led to the design of a self-assembly spatial kit (Diversity Den) which groups can use to create a ‘talking tent’ together, accompanied by a card game to provoke interaction amongst users and generate understanding across difference. Its design was based on 5 principles:

  1. Temporality: The kit should be a temporary construction.
  2. Assembly: The structure must be simple to assemble to ensure anyone can construct it but must always require more than one person to ensure co-operation.
  3. Site: The kit should not be site specific but should be able to be constructed in numerous spatial contexts.
  4. Weight: The kit must be easily manoeuvrable, light, durable and safe to assemble.
  5. Materiality: The structural materials should allow for usein variable conditions.

The Diversity Den was piloted at various events in both national contexts. For example, a community rugby gala; an international event organised at a university for students from diverse national backgrounds; and a National Citizen’s Service event for school pupils aged 16+. In total 15 groups experimented with the kit. The Diversity Dens were very effective at facilitating collaboration across ‘difference’ and have subsequently attracted attention from NGOs and community organisations; equality and diversity trainers; educators and professional facilitators who wish to purchase this tool for professional use.


 Related publications

  • Book chapters

Mayblin, L. 2014. Creating ‘meaningful contact’. Some findings from the LIVEDIFFERENCE Research Programme, in M. Zaborowska (ed.) Sport for Dialogue: Good Practices Around Europe, Warsaw: Fundacja dla Wolności, 12-16. ISBN: 978-83-939075-0-2

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