by

Cody Simms: The StoryStream Project

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[Cody is a University of Virginia student and an intern at The Bridge. He’s been hard at work conceptualizing how to transform a classic Airstream trailer into a storytelling and storylistening project. Look for Cody and his hard work on this project at a festival or public space near you this summer!]

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a natural playground, I have always loved a balance between play and observation, between creation and contemplation. I remember meticulously building sandcastles and then eagerly waiting for the bay to destroy them so I could design once again. I knew from a young age that I would always want to observe, play, design, repeat.

Hi, I’m Cody Simms. I’m a 4th year at UVa studying architecture, but I don’t want to be an architect. So I decided to declare Architectural Design Thinking as my concentration, which is for students interested in interdisciplinary problem solving through exploratory design processes.

Interning at The Bridge has been a great way for me to not only get out of the architecture school twice a week, but has also offered hands-on experience with the local design world of Charlottesville.

I still remember my thought when one of the board members, Elvira, first told me about plans to program an airstream. “What is an airstream?” After Googling it, I was immediately reminded of the classic, aluminum trailer.

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Elvira got in touch with Enactus, a group at UVa student entrepreneurs, to help brainstorm ideas for reprograming the airstream. I attended their weekly meetings as a liaison between The Bridge and UVa. We decided that we wanted the airstream to be an interactive hub for displaying the stories of Charlottesville.

During one of the meetings, we pondered if this could be someone’s thesis project- maybe someone in the architecture school. At first, I said I would send out an email to my classmates to see if anyone was interested. But I could never get myself to send that email. That’s when I knew. This was going to be my thesis.

I’m studying how this mobile storytelling exhibition can invite citizens to engage with their role as witness or participant, or simply connect with a stranger’s story. And I’m also interested in how an airstream, which is a symbol of luxury and leisure and is exclusive in design- basically a closed-off, shiny shell- can unfold itself toward the city to foster inclusivity.

I imagine the exterior as being colorful and interactive, providing visitors with the opportunity to jot down stories, thoughts, advice, and memories. The inside will be a display of previously collected stories.

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Before we exhibit the stories in the airstream, we first need to collect some. Inspired by “Humans of New York” and “StoryCorps”, I’m currently testing out different prompts on the Downtown Mall as well as different ways of asking those prompts. So far, the best method is passive, interactive design. I’ve gotten the most responses when I put this red column in the middle of the Mall. I taped on four questions, one on each side of the column. And then I put sticky notes under each of the questions. I left markers. And then walked away—and by walked away, I mean I spied from Citizen Burger. But hey, that’s the first part of observe, play, design, repeat.

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