WINNER: In Search of 100 Years at 73 Brattle

Proposal statement by John Wang ‘16:

Courtesy of John WangCourtesy of John Wang

In Search of 100 Years at 73 Brattle proposes the creation of a historic garden as an homage to the long history of Radcliffe and the present role that Radcliffe plays in facilitating scholarly exchanges across disciplines, institutions, and locales.

The year 2017 marks the centennial of Radcliffe’s ownership of 73 Brattle, the plot in which the Wallach Garden sits today. When Radcliffe purchased the house formerly known as Sawin House from the Cambridge businessman Moses Sawin in 1917, the school converted it into classrooms to ease congestion in the overcrowded Yard. By providing additional space for instruction, the new building promoted Radcliffe’s mission of furthering education of women. In 1932, the house was demolished and the space has since been somewhat underutilized until recent years when it was repurposed for public art installations in 2009.

In recognition of this history and the many layers of meaning that the site has acquired through the years, 100 Years calls for a site-specific installation that doubles as a public space. Granite blocks are arranged and installed in accordance to the former building footprint of the Sawin House based on information from the Schlesinger Library. Reclaimed granite is used to evoke a sense of accumulated time and to visually echo the building foundations prevalent in Radcliffe Yard. The interior space, set 6 inches below grade, transforms the granite blocks into benches and hints at what was once there. When overlaying today’s map over the historic map, a discontinuity between the former footprint and today’s redline can be found. The footprint, therefore, breaks off abruptly near the edge of Wallach Garden to reveal this disjuncture truthfully. The break is connected by a panel of frosted glass whose contrasting materiality offers surprising illumination during the morning and evening.

Ultimately, 100 Years is a project embedded in history but without nostalgia. Historic references are made in order to create a distinctive public space sensitive to the context. More importantly, the creation of a gathering space aims at furthering the goal of Radcliffe today just as the Sawin House once did by creating an enjoyable space for interactions and conversation.

See: 100+ Years at 73 Brattle by John Wang '16

FINALIST: ABOVE/ground

Proposal statement by Johanna Cairns MLA I ‘17 and Taylor Baer MLA ’17:

Courtesy of Johanna Cairns and Taylor BaerCourtesy of Johanna Cairns and Taylor Baer

ABOVE/ground provides a sublime experience by capturing the quality of a grand landscape in a small urban space through the use of traditional building material and technique. Borrowing from the construction technique typically used to measure the ground with stakes, this design rethinks the purpose of staking by registering a new topography from a flat plane. This design draws attention to the artificial nature of topography in designed landscapes by juxtaposing the flat surface of the existing “ground” with the new hyper articulated wooden ground. The posts are cut to create angles that blend into those of the adjacent posts creating a new visual “ground plane.” By using wood posts to generate this topographic form, the design is able to achieve a level of slope and scale which reinforces the feeling of enclosure, transporting occupants to an imaginary landscape.

The experience of the wooden topography is influenced by several environmental factors, particularly sun and shade. As the sun moves across the sky the continually changing shadows dance across the surrounding poles and landscape. The choreography of cast shadows facilitates greater connection to the changing of day and seasons and provides continuous visual interest both inside and outside. The shadows are coupled with the hide and reveal of the sun, similar to the flickering of light through vertical blinds on a window. Due to the gridded placement of the posts, as one moves through and around the design, the space between the posts fluctuate between transparent and opaque as they disperse and realign.

FINALIST: Chora

Proposal statement by Ruth Chang MArch I ’17 and Maia Peck MArch I ’17:

Courtesy of Ruth Chang and Maia PeckCourtesy of Ruth Chang and Maia Peck

I have told you that these strange little beings have built up large islands and parts of continents, and I hope with what I have said of their way of growing, of their solid frame, and of their living in such crowded communities, forming large hard masses, you would be able to understand how these busy little animals, who in order to fulfill their appointed works have only to grow, have helped to make the world.
—Elizabeth Agassiz, A First Lesson in Natural History (1859)

Chora is an interactive sound installation that gives voice to members of the Radcliffe community from its inception in 1879 through our present day. The aim is to create a “khora”—a space or interval—in which to pause and hear these varied voices, which are currently archived in the form of oral histories, personal and scholarly texts, creative works, letters, and other writings. Chora provides the platform to lift these artifacts out of the muteness of the archive, and into the world for the community to listen to, ponder, and share.

The idea for the project was initially inspired by the research on coral reefs of the first President of Radcliffe, Elizabeth Agassiz. When the tiny individual corals stand alone, she observes, they are dwarfed by their environment. But when bonded together into reefs, these small organisms become vital and enduring “communities . . . that have helped to make a world.”

Agassiz, along with the early members of the Radcliffe community, pioneered a space of bonding and growing that has resulted in the ecology of Harvard and Radcliffe today. Chora’s garden of voices celebrates that endeavor by highlighting both the individual and the collective, through 30 motion-activated sound pieces. These sound pieces, this garden’s flowers, create whispering sound spots in the garden that respond to passersby as they traverse the garden. Audio programs will be predetermined for each sound spot, and can be altered through the installation’s lifetime, giving an opportunity for artists, visiting fellows, and students to establish new echoes and harmonies to the world of Chora.

FINALIST: Radcliffe Slum

Proposal statement by Ignacio Cardona DDes ‘18:

Courtesy of Ignacio CardonaCourtesy of Ignacio Cardona

Based on high and low density spaces around the world and the possibilities opened by Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), this project aims to connect contrasting realities such as the ones in the biggest slum in Latin America (Petare, Caracas, Venezuela) with a privileged situation like Radcliffe, where people have a lot of public space per person but only a few occasionally use it.

With this design, Radcliffe Yard becomes a multidimensional place, where senses are distorted and landscape begins to blur. People are able to cross the yard and experience other realities as they walk through the rough ground, look at people from Petare in real time and occupy more space through their reflections while they simultaneously read other texts full of complexities.

In terms of materiality, two types of ground (grass and gravel) will draw the map of a Latin America Slum in the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Garden at the same scale. Inside then, two types of elements will be installed: totems and viewfinders.

With the support of the community, we propose the installation of cameras in selected areas in the Petare slum. Through the viewfinders, people will see another reality from Radcliffe. They also will be able to interact with these places using hashtags that are going to be seen later in Petare. The seven viewfinders that provide some data about the slum also will show a monitor connected to a camera via internet to the slum in Latin America, showing in real time what is happening there.

Totems are vertical elements that represent the people who live in this area of Petare. As it is very difficult to live in a place like this, with such narrow circumstances and insecurity hunting everywhere, glasses and mirrors are used to represent the fragility of their life. Since these people have shocking living backgrounds, their names and a brief summary are used in totems in order to bolster their identity. The 128 totems that represent 128 people who lived in this area of the slum will have some information about these persons (age, gender, and some important characteristic of their life). For example:

* Betsaida / 73 years old - she still has not lost hope of moving out of the barrio.
* Yeiker / 12 years old - he wants to be like Maikel, his cousin.
* Yanfe / 16 years old - she is really happy to be pregnant.
* Josefina / 26 years old - two of his sons were killed in 2015.
* Juan / 8 years old - he wants to play soccer like Messi.
* Sol / 46 years old - she makes delicious birthday cakes.
* Ismael / 16 years old - he plays violin in the orchestra of the barrio.

Radcliffe Slum will be an opportunity for social encounter and exploration, different ways to interact with the city taking advantage of social media as a tool to create a bidirectional scenario of communication. It is a strategy of social awareness through artistic experience.

FINALIST: Reflection

Proposal statement by Tamotsu Ito MArch II ’16 and Hui Wang MLA ’16:

Courtesy of Tamotsu Ito and Hui WangCourtesy of Tamotsu Ito and Hui Wang

The way in which we perceive and interact with our environment comes about from the tension between the objectivity of the material world and the subjectivity of our perceptions. The project Reflection—made from reflective concrete surfaces that constantly interact with the surroundings of Radcliffe Yard, aims to trigger the viewer’s awareness of the inherently subjective character of perception.

Consisting of a series of concrete elements of various heights and shapes embraced by fluctuating landforms, the installation implies solidified volumes of water through the use of mirrored surfaces that cap the shapes, dissolving their mass and creating a series of reflective surfaces that are arrayed across Radcliffe Yard. The installation expresses the idea that reality and history are both observed and reflected in different ways depending on one's standpoint and perspective.

The construction of the installation, with the main body of the intervention built from concrete, inverts the figure (the mountain) and the ground (the mirrored surface, reminiscent of water), which questions what existed first and what is dominant.

Located in the bustle of Radcliffe Yard these carefully situated reflective concrete mirrors constantly interact with the surrounding environment; regardless of season, time of day, or who is passing by. Students, faculty, and the public are all invited to find their own way of engaging in the site. Whether that interaction is had by standing high, sitting or lying down to capture different layers of the context, or through the simple act of wandering through the fluctuating scenes of reflection. At one point the installation is experienced as a kind of forest as the mirrors reflect the surrounding plant life, at another they see an intensely urban scene, when the surrounding fabric appears. For children the scene may be entirely different again as their eye level is different from that of adults.

Furthermore, the height of each surface is calibrated for a variety of uses, in one instance appearing as a table, another as a bench or a step, allowing for the understanding of the intervention as both sculpture and urban furniture that supports the dynamic range of events that take in the yard throughout the year.

Our intervention aims to influence the many ways in which visitors to the yard perceive and experience everyday life and the people, objects, and moments that fill it.