WINNER: Latent (e)Scapes

Proposal statement by Christina Geros MAUD, MLA '15:

Courtesy of Christina GerosCourtesy of Christina Geros

__an interactive kinetic landscape that responds to both human interaction and environmental factors. Taking its inspiration and leveraging the simplistic beauty of the scape—the long, leafless stalks common to several families of plants—the project consists of 1600 ⅛” diameter acrylic scapes of varying heights. These light stalks are distributed among a series of ground formations. Gently swaying, bending light, and casting shadows; these elements make visible the energy and latent forces inherent in both the landscape and its inhabitants.

The design for the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Garden is organized by a series of smaller clusters of these elements as well as two larger landscape berms that bracket and insulate the garden while inviting pedestrians from Brattle Street. The design also accepts pedestrian traffic from Radcliffe Yard with a pocket plaza, drawing users deeper into the space. Beyond implying smaller nodes of space for gathering, the berms and the stalks also create a screening effect. The small groupings of scapes are layered in height to create visual depth and direct pedestrian circulation through the installation to the existing walkway to the west of Buckingham House.

At night the kinetic landscape is maintained through the use of internal LED lighting at the base of each scape. Utilizing a combination of infrared and ultrasound proximity sensors connected to a series of Arduino microcontrollers, the lit stalks will modulate light intensity in reaction to natural forces and the movement of pedestrians within the garden.

FINALIST: 73 Brattle Street

Proposal statement by Luat Duong ULE '15 and Ziyin Zhou MArch II '14:

Courtesy of Luat Duong and Ziyin ZhouCourtesy of Luat Duong and Ziyin Zhou 

The intervention we propose is an instrument that uses sunlight to emphasize the history and the changes that have taken place. The perimeters of the box are proportional to that of the site. The open floating box acts as housing for three transparent and colored lenses that corresponds to the floor plan’s shapes and positions in relation to the site found in our research. A fourth layer of bells are hung from the bottom of the box.

Initially, the bells would scatter the sunlight passing through the box on to the ground making the shadows illegible. Through taking of the bells, the overlapping of colored shadows would take form and reveal itself as floor plans on the site.

Etched into the ground is a pattern that corresponds to the shadows that are casted. Alignment with the lines of the pattern denote a particular time during a specific day of the year. While alignments with solstices and equinoxes denote the passing of time during the year, the shadows of October 1, the merger between Radcliffe and Harvard, is traced throughout the whole day. At noon on October 1, the box’s shadow is concealed through its geometry.

FINALIST: Bodyscapes

Proposal statement by Larissa Belcic MLA '16, Helen Miller MDes '15, and Lance Smith MArch '16:

Courtesy of Larissa Belcic, Helen Miller, and Lance SmithCourtesy of Larissa Belcic, Helen Miller, and Lance Smith

A row of geometric blocks undulates along the side of Wallach Garden. Taking their cue from the classic wooden blocks standard in schools for centuries, these forms have been scaled up to the size of the body, tipped and stacked to provide surfaces for movement, rest, and study. Just as the children’s blocks were designed to be handled and arranged in infinite configurations, these larger forms engage the ever-changing configuration of the whole body. The shapes and angles of the built environment present endless opportunities for embodied play; indeed, the architectural landscape is largely built around human measurements and tendencies. Bodyscapes activates and enlivens the potential relationships between architecture and human form.

Referencing the improvisational realm of kindergarten and pre-K, the linear aspect of the blocks also calls up the familiar arrangement of desks in the secondary and post-secondary classroom. This orienting capacity of the line shifts our attention from Brattle Street and into the playful geometry of the site. As one possible threshold among many, an archway in the row of blocks invites visitors to enter into the space of the garden, bending, crouching, and becoming more aware of their physical movements in the process. On the other side of this threshold, a field of poured rubber mats extends the invitation to play, variations in their size, shape, and arrangement implying various use of the space. The mats could be used to relax, stretch, study, have a picnic, or hold a class.

Buildings and communities surrounding Wallach Garden have inspired significant aspects of our design. The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) have played leading roles in the history of embodied education, elaborating the value of experiential learning in formal and informal settings locally, nationally, and internationally. In order to make the most of Bodyscapes as a dynamic space for learning, movement, and performance, we propose to engage connections between Radcliffe, HGSE, and the A.R.T. with interdisciplinary programming developed in collaboration with the Harvard Office for the Arts (OFA), the Harvard Dance Program, HGSE’s Arts in Education (AIE) Program, and the Movers, Shakers, and Other Art Makers (MSA) HGSE student group.

The natural environment is fundamental to our proposal. Embedding the project within the existing yard activates the tactile possibilities of the lawn, encouraging us to touch and move around on this organic surface. Our installation also reaches outside the boundaries of the site to strengthen and ground its argument; the natural colors and materials of the surrounding trees inform the colors and materials used in the blocks and mats. The rectangular blocks work in tandem with the rectangular stone benches lining the site, while the terra cotta color of the mats references the changing leaves so characteristic of a New England fall. The built environment and its potential for physical engagement are equally relevant to our design. Columns, windows, walls, and decorative elements of Cambridge buildings find their basic shapes—their building blocks, so to speak—in the installation we propose.

Bodyscapes takes its cue from the physical and historical context of the Wallach Garden, welcoming Harvard and Cambridge communities to interact with the site. Inspired by the history of progressive education and minimalist art and design, Bodyscapes activates perceptual, sensual, and kinesthetic awareness. The playful blocks and playground surfaces, together with a series of classes and events, awaken childhood memory, educational history, and personal and public imagination through embodied, self-directed learning.

FINALIST: Comic/Strip

Proposal statement by Daniel W. Erickson '14, Zoe Hitzig '15, Julian A. Leonard '15, Ryan A. Murphy '14, Sarah C. Rosenthal '15:

Courtesy of Daniel W. Erickson, Zoe Hitzig, Julian A. Leonard, Ryan A. Murphy, and Sarah C. RosenthalCourtesy of Daniel W. Erickson, Zoe Hitzig, Julian A. Leonard, Ryan A. Murphy, and Sarah C. Rosenthal

Comic/Strip: Public Sculpture as Performance

The Comic/Strip team plans to construct a miniature outdoor amphitheater. The amphitheater will have an elliptical ring base constructed of concrete. The base begins at an ellipse with axes of 13 and 22 ft, with graduated elliptical walls, each 1.5 ft taller than the last, spaced every three feet along the base, until the base ends, at an ellipse with axes of 22 and 31 ft. These shells will be filled with dirt and their tops will be covered with grass, in an emulation of the classical public amphitheater. At the center of the amphitheater we will install a cylindrical concrete base, and atop that a raised, vertically oriented rectangular prism, made out of plexiglas, with a white pedestal inside it. This should give the impression of a display case to contain artifacts, as in a museum.

We will light the amphitheater with outdoor floor lighting recessed into the base. This will serve to dramatically light the performance space, distinguishing it atmospherically from that of the seating and the surrounding environment.

For the two-year duration that the installation is up, we plan to regularly solicit found-objects from the greater Harvard community to exhibit on the pedestal in the display case at the center of the amphitheater. An ongoing open call for found-objects will be included in the installation description.

Here are some examples of found-objects that we believe would engage productively with the dialogues opened by Comic/Strip: objects that deal with duration (an egg timer, an alarm clock, a potted plant), objects traditionally found in exhibition spaces (an abstract painting), objects that deal with anthropocentric relationships to environments (a scarecrow, a portrait), small objects of personal value to individuals in the community (a broken toy, a retired wig). Some of the most interesting, we find, are objects that engage with many of these themes at once (a terrarium, a landscape painting, a dollhouse). These objects may serve as spaces themselves.

Public art can subtly transform passersby’s experience of the general atmosphere, tone, or mood of an outdoor site. However, in our experiences outside of art communities, these installations have not necessarily become a focus of discussion, stimulated disagreement, or provoked the kind of curiosity that spills directly into social engagement. Viewers can easily assimilate large built structures into the landscape, as we are used to living in a built environment. When we see the same storefronts, streets, and houses every day, we become desensitized to their discrete identities, and certainly to any formal characteristics that may have made them momentarily refreshing. In the spirit of the Radcliffe Public Art Competition, this sculptural site will continually refresh itself.

Our team is thrilled to take this opportunity to create Comic/Strip, a meta-public meta-sculpture, a public space within a space that is constantly performing, morphing, drawing focus and attention to it, that invites viewers’ curiosity as they walk by, gives them a place to linger, directs their eyes. The object amphitheater creates a familiar structure for viewing performance but places still objects at its center, inviting viewers to puzzle, watch, and wait. To think about the way spaces communicate (and perform) meaning and value, to think about the boundaries between spaces and objects, between one kind of space and another kind of space. To think about built spaces, indoors and outdoors, public and private performances. To think about monuments as events.

Comic/Strip questions the patronizing tendency to imply that outdoor sculpture is an act of charity from the art world to the “public.” On the other hand, it is earnest in its democratization of a rarified gallery aesthetic that will start conversations about indoors and outdoors, buildings and mannequins, bodies and their expectations of their world.

FINALIST: The Consequences of Engagement

Proposal statement by Cara Walsh MLA '14 and Andy Wisniewski MLA '14:

Courtesy of Cara Walsh and Andy WisniewskiCourtesy of Cara Walsh and Andy Wisniewski

This installation proposal insists upon interaction and movement, and rejects the static, inspiring its title, The Consequences of Engagement. Based on principles of kinetic art, in which the work itself responds to wind and light and thus creates its own energy, the sculpture simultaneously embraces and encourages the public in its interactivity. 486 reflective stainless steel balls are hung on clear string from a light steel edifice that is built into a slightly raised plinth of native long fescue grasses. Without the engagement of a person, the balls form a datum that is roughly 7 feet off the ground. They may move on their own in response to wind, and sunlight and precipitation will create varying inputs of shadow and water play based on season. Should a person choose to interact with the work, their action creates dynamic conditions in which the form of the datum is morphed based on specific inputs. The crux of the concept lies in the engagement of the human, via pulley strings that are placed at specific locations throughout the matrix of the ball structure. When a person pulls on one input, a varying group of strings will respond by moving up or down, and not necessarily in the same place on the grid as where the person is standing. The grid structure is designed to cull strings from varying positions on the grid, and the more people that are simultaneously interacting with the sculpture via pulleys, the more the grid of strings transforms. In this sense the notion of cause and effect, input and motion, and multiplicity come to the fore. Inspired by the Radcliffe mission of pursuit in the arts and the sciences, this project seeks to touch upon the potential for engagement with public art work, while incorporating themes of science and technology into the conversation. The form of the sculpture itself is light and beautiful on its own, but transforms and transfixes when engaged by the public, morphing into an ever-changing form that undulates in response to action.