Saturday, 19 November 2011

Not always built to last.....

A time of year that triggers reflection, often on the ephemeral nature of things.  As deciduous trees respond to the night frosts and the sun sits lower in the sky, leaves turn brown and fall to the ground.  This can also be a time to celebrate a spontaneity that can come from short-lived design. 

The plan here is to avoid the temptation to get darkly reflective on the short-lived nature of the built form, but to look at items in the landscape that are designed NOT to last, but maybe to give cover to the construction of things that will last or to celebrate an event.  Sometimes these designs are for an ephemeral experience, but most often they are in order to add to one that in days past would have been dull-thudding boredom and a trigger for an exotic variety of graffiti.  Graffiti comes in many forms and will be the subject of its own post.  There is graffiti that is many centuries old, so it is not all eligible for this blog post!

The two photos showing construction boarding were taken in Helsinki and Madrid.  In Helsinki the construction perimeter surrounding the new Music Hall was stamped with designs that were echoing the elements of the modern city, such as mobile phones and screaming babies, lawn mowers and bicycles.  All sound generators, so a subliminal message of sound went along the distraction from the cranes and steel work on the site.  In Madrid airport the construction barriers within the new Terminal 4 had various emblems on them, again with subliminal and up front messages about the future use of the areas behind the screens.  The designs interact with the highly polished floors to create patterns for the eye and cease to be about just a wall up to block people out of an area, giving something back in exchange.

Some short-lived designs are a result of members of the public making political statements in imaginative ways, garnering debate and interest.  This image is of a protest in Iceland where women and children knitted sections of cover for tree limbs.  It was outside the Icelandic Museum in Reykjavik.

And some designs are for ephemeral experience that enhances and augments a profound experience.  The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is designed in such a way that a beam of sunshine will fall on the altar in the morning.  Similar beams of light fall within the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, but somehow the power of the blue-ish colour of the light in Bethlehem, allied to the layout, make the design work better. 

The theme of ephemeral design masking construction was particularly appropriate with the National Gallery’s installation of the Van Gogh Wheatfield that adorned the face of the gallery over this last summer.  It is very much to be hoped that further pieces of this nature follow their inspiring lead - see previous post

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