Canopy of Thoughts - CODAworx

Canopy of Thoughts

Submitted by Elyssa Sykes-Smith

Client: Architectural Association School of Architecture (AAIS Programme)

Location: London, United Kingdom

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $10,000

Project Team

AAIS Programme Director

Theo Lorenz

Architectural Association School of Architecture

AAIS Research and Development

Tanja Siems

Architectural Association School of Architecture


Canopy of Thoughts (2021) is structured around the incremental development of Sykes-Smith’s previous sculpture installation titled A Canopy of Thoughts (2015), an exploration of dissociation that visually depicts a haze of uncertainty, within a canopy of criss-crossing thoughts and emotions. Expressed visually, thoughts form a canopy above us, simultaneously protecting and blocking. The protagonist in the artwork peers up into the overwhelming canopy of thoughts, reaching up, searching, attempting to achieve grounding. This artistic metaphor acts to bridge and bind the project concept, research stages, performance, and educational engagement.

“I am in crisis. We are in crisis. The Earth is in crisis. A global climate crisis. A Canopy of Thoughts, my Canopy of Thoughts, our Canopy of Thoughts; a cognitive architecture made visual through concept mapping of factors, thoughts and feelings. Disparate aspects linked visibly and invisibly, consciously and unconsciously, associations realised through asking, articulating, listening. Reaching up to understand, structuring knowledge, to achieve grounding.” (Excerpt from film script).


Project titled Canopy of Thoughts (2021) produced by Elyssa Sykes-Smith for her MFA thesis project at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AAIS programme) approaches the topic of environmental sustainability as a human rights issue and aims to highlight the impact of the global climate crisis on mental health. The project is grounded in scientific, theoretical and artistic research, working from the following problem question: “How to define and measure experiences of dissociation through the metaphorical relationship of protagonist and narrative utilising concept mapping techniques and sensory aspects to understand the role of embodiment in climate psychology?”


The aims for the MFA thesis project are layered and intersectional between my personal
and professional journey. Through analytical and critical discourse, I present my MFA thesis project titled a ‘Canopy of Thoughts’ which explores the possibility of cultural events as cultural generators that have potential for lasting effect upon their participants, environment and economy. The project has been constructed in reference to the theories of ‘creative industries’, creative economy, ‘creative class’, the notion of the creative city; alongside the approaches of participatory, socially-engaged art practice and qualitative research methods including arts-based-health-research, and embodied-research approaches.

My project approach is a process-based, research-based, multi-staged and multi-faceted series of events including virtual research activities and sessions; physical installation and performance; and a virtual film screening and workshop, that deviates between personal, private and public showcasing. The series of events stem from the standpoint of the Australian ‘Black Summer’ 2019-2020 bushfire season, as the initial climate-based disaster event. This project seeks to understand human behaviour and perception as it pertains to the global climate crisis.

Additional Information

The film attached is a trailer for the entire Canopy of Thoughts (performance) film. An additional film including a pre-recorded workshop structured around the performance film has been created which can be implemented for virtual events. To access either of these films and/or the submitted written MFA thesis documentation please contact Elyssa Sykes-Smith.