Text Block @ Hawkes Bay Museum and Gallery

Earlier this year the Hawkes Bay Museum and Gallery, in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand published a small commissioned artwork by Duncan and me. The artwork operates as a representation of the donations that have been received by members of the public toward the cost of extending the existing museum gallery.

The resulting artwork is an elegant play on a form of social-digital architecture.
Simply put, the names of people who make donations are used as the architectural elements in the representation of the proposed new building. See it live here.

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The work extends the practical and theoretical approaches to considering what forms digital architecture might take. We argue that the increasing confidence and sophistication of interdisciplinary studies in geography, most notably in human geography, combined with the technological opportunities of social navigation (field of HCI), provide a useful model of time and space as a unified design parameter. In so doing our practices and writing suggest new possibilities for architectural representation involving social interaction.

To some extent the new extension to the Hawkes Bay Museum and Gallery is constituted upon the donations of its patrons. Manifested through bricks, steel and concrete in actuality, the ‘place’ can also be articulated through the people who made it happen.

“What emerges from this is a picture of a reflexively populated information space. By ‘populated’, I mean that it contains not just information, but also people who are acting on that information, and who can see the effects of each others’ actions and exploit that information in managing their own activities. By reflexively populated, I mean that not only does the structure of the space have an impact on the action of the users, but the action of the users have an impact on the space.” (Dourish 2003:291)

The small commissioned piece is part of a continuum of pieces that offer a social dimension to digital architecture. Work such as The Reading Rooms project also developed in New Zealand:

Reading Rooms used ‘live’ 3D animation to rebuild the architecture of the Design Faculty, Unitec, Auckland according to what students were borrowing from the campus library. By querying the university library’s database and finding out what books a selection of students were borrowing, the software rearranged the layout of the buildings according to the subjects that the students were reading. For example, if an architecture student was reading a book about photography then a piece of the Architecture department would move to where Photography is based. This simple idea made it possible to see the trans-disciplinary nature of student study, the role that the library plays in facilitating the students’ reading within and outside of their specialisms, and the multiple perceptions we have of a place and its architecture.

Another form of architectural representation was the Invisible Transmissions project that ‘flew’ offices in to the Portland Square building at the University of Plymouth according to the location of the sender. A three-dimensional model of the Portland Square building, University of Plymouth was developed and the relevant rooms along the south flank of the building associated with the actual staff who occupied them. The software checks everybody’s email ‘inbox’ and establishes the names of recent people who have sent an email to the recipient. By correlating the sender’s name with their geographical location on the campus via the university telephone directory, an office with an image of the appropriate architectural style was then ‘flown’ into the scene and attached to the recipient’s office. The software checked inboxes every minute, so offices could be seen to be ‘flying’ into Portland Square and being absorbed into the building on a regular basis.

Screen 1: Text Block loading names of donors

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Screen 2: Text Block exploding names

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Screen 3: Text Block using names to build model of building

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The use of text as an architectural component references the 1989 work of Jeffrey Shaw, Legible City
and typographic representations of the city such as The Child by Alex Gopher.

The work was commissioned by Heidi Mcleod and Douglas Lloyd Jenkins.
Work can be viewed at http://www.forus.org.nz/donate.html
And information on the exciting new extension can be found here: http://www.forus.org.nz/

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