Mid-review: Rebirth of concept (portals)
Whoa, what? I swapped languages. Oh well, I suppose that’s pretty playful. The main reason is that I intend to create the final presentation material in English and it’s easier for me to primarily stick to one language during the creative process.
What follows is a whole bunch of entangled streams of thoughts seeking to crystalise into a single concept. (portals?)
So, only after the concept review, I really began to think about the concept of my work. I noticed that even though I had a general idea about what I wanted to create, I was lacking a clear overarching concept. In my mind each intervention had a clear purpose, but what was lacking was a greater idea that would connect the interventions together into a coherent whole. I already knew what the purpose of the interventions was. The next step was to condense my thoughts and feelings into a simple and clear concept bringing it all together.
I began with what I already knew: the purpose of the interventions. During the earlier parts of the course I had found clarity in what kind of approach I wanted to have. The idea is to create playful and playable interventions that enable an enhanced experience of the spirit of the place. Even though this idea is clear in my own consciousness, I suppose it needs further explanations in order to be sufficiently conveyed to others. I’ve noticed during my earlier studies that I have great ideas, but need to have more emphasis on clear and informative ways of conveying these ideas to others. It doesn’t matter how well thought out and perfectly harmonious your design is; if it’s not presented clearly, it won’t be understood. The final product of a studio work is not an actual design, but a presentation of one. Each idea that is not presented is as good as nothing. Hence I intend to place greater emphasis on the clarity and quality of my presentation material.
Anyway, back to the concept. So what do I mean by playful? In the context of this work, playful means something that feels out of the ordinary. A playful design offers an unusual perspective to something and uses materials, space, light, and other phenomena in an innovative way. Playable on the other hand refers to the usability of the interventions as some sort of play equipment. My intention is that each intervention provides possibilities for a wide range of play for different age groups and temperaments. The goal is that anyone can find their own way to play with the interventions, and that they inspire a creative relationship between users and the surrounding landscape.
Finally, what do I mean by enabling an enhanced experience of the spirit of the place? This aspect is very clear to me, but as it is somewhat intuitive the essence of it eludes my attempts of verbalising it. Basically, the interventions higlight certain aspects of the place that might otherwise go unnoticed. Through this the interventions provide a space where people can have an enhanced experience of reality. In a way the interventions act as portals to an expanded awareness. (Portals is a key concept. I’ll keep repeating it in circles for the rest of the post) They uncover subtle aspects of Sompasaari such as history, natural phenomena, and atmosphere, and in this way enable a deeper relationship with the space and an expanded awareness of reality. Andy Goldsworthy crystalises this idea as follows:
“You feel as if you’ve touched the heart of the place. That’s a way of understanding for me; Seeing something you never saw before, that was always there, but you were blind to it.”
As a practical example a net expanded over water gives a new perspective to the sea. Hanging above the water highlights the presence of the sea, the movement of waves, the scents, and play of light on the surface of the water. Through this intervention people experience the presence of the sea in an enhanced way, where instead of it being ‘over there’ the sea is very acutely present in their experience.
Going big. All is one. It’s all connected!
As the idea behind the interventions was fairly clear to me, I shifted my focus on the overall concept uniting the different interventions into one connected whole. After the mid-review I studied further the context of Sompasaari and the surrounding landscape as well as how my proposals would sit into the current and future fabric of the city. As I mentioned earlier, I see the interventions as some kind of portals. Through them I basically highlight vital aspects of the place and preserve them. The interventions create connections to the valuable aspects of the site and maintain these connections as the surrounding fabric develops. The newly built urban structure of Sompasaari is very generic and lacks character. Especially relationship to the sea, history of the place, nature, and materiality have all faded to the background. The purpose of my playful interventions is to provide access to these important aspects: to the life of the place, echoes of the past, spirits of nature, play of light, texture, and materials. The interventions act as portals (!) to these other dimensions of the landscape that might otherwise fade from our experience as the area develops. They allow one to cross the veil into an expanded view of reality and a deeper understanding of the place.
This made me hink of Indra’s net, a concept in hindu and buddhist philosophy: Indra’s net is a metaphor of the Universe. It is an infinite web that has a multifaceted, polished jewel in each vertex. Within every single jewel are reflected all other jewels, and within each reflection again all other jewels ad infinitum. Every particle of the universe contains holographically the entire universe. This corresponds to the current paradigm of quantum entanglement that states that particles that have once been connected, always remain connected even through vast distances. Since according to our current understanding the entire universe was once condensed into a single point from which it expanded in the big bang, it follows that all particles of the universe share an intimate connection through entanglemet. The idea of a holographic universe is extremely fascinating (and makes perfect sense) so I get easily sidetracked. (Just spent hours reading and watching videos)
Anyway, the way all of this relates to my concept for this coursework is as follows:
The interventions are nodes that reflect aspects of reality that would otherwise be obscured. They are portals (yes, portals) through which one experiences expanded awareness of nature, time, and other phenomena. These would very loosely correspond to the jewels of Indra’s web, being lenses that reflect something that could otherwise not be seen. These nodes will then be connected by routes, a web of light. In practice I was thinking of a rope with a luminous fibre in it crisscrossing through the upcoming urban fabric of Sompasaari connecting the interventions.
This also ties into the history of the site, the interventions representing ports where you can experience life in a different way and the routes representing waterways connecting these ports. To enter the city of Helsinki from the sea, a ship needs to go through a port. A port is the threshold that connects two realities, sea and land. By crossing a sea following a waterway one arrives to a port and by stepping through a port one steps into a new and foreign reality. For us modern people this is perhaps more easily understood by thinking about airports: by following an air route one comes to an airport and the airport offers a possibility to a major shift in perception. Stepping out of the airport is a striking experience, the different scent, noises, the way the air feels, temperature etc. The interventions in Sompasaari are ports (portals) to subtle aspects of the genius loci.
And what about the kids?
Will children joyfully playing around and interacting with these interventions understand the references to eastern philosophy, quantum physics, and seafare? Nah… they’ll just have fun and experience it all intuitively. That’s real life. All concepts are just attempts to condense the important aspects of the design into a single idea for easier symbolic communication of these ideas to other designers, decision makers, and other correspondences. If these designs were actually built, the only thing that would matter would be the intuitive, immediate experience of people interacting with them. What I’m trying to express with all this talk about portals etcetera is the simple idea that the interventions allow for shifts in perception. They allow one to step into a reality that is a little bit expanded from one’s usual experience. Kids love shifts in perception. That’s why they hang upside down or place their ears into seashells. They constantly seek out ways to experience things differently – and that’s the way they grow. That’s the way we all grow. I want more of that for myself and others. So portals. Yeah, the world needs portals.
That’s all folks.