A Place For Presence

Preface:

For this project, ‘place’ describes a personally relatable space. This project began by exploring the creation of place through citizen-driven interventions in public space. In my research, place is a reaction of a moving context; it is constantly evolving within shared space. Despite this, places are often designed as permanent physical infrastructures and are not responsive to evolving spatial conditions. I realized that there is an inherent separation between citizens and public space as they tend to passively rather than actively engage with shared environments. For this reason, the aim of my project was to explore methods of active participation that would foster a sense of place that is responsive, ephemeral, and personally relatable. My research process involved interventions, workshops, and activities that created a temporary experience of place. The pieces draw from my research; synthesizing the spatial explorations I did throughout this project. The final designs express the temporalities of place in public space through personal spatial relations and actions. 


Prompt 1:

The picnic blanket is iconic in its facilitation for creating a place for gathering, sitting, and ‘being’ in public space. Its intrinsic ability to create a self-determined place became a tool for me to push the context of experiencing public space to areas typically not considered. The blanket represents a physical and visual site for people to situate themselves in a range of public environments. By slowing down and being present in public areas there is potential to sense existing physical and social characteristics that are otherwise not given much thought. Placing the blanket in a public space might draw attention to qualities such as the texture of the ground, new sounds and smells, or the sight of others nearby. The more time spent in a space, the more one’s awareness and sense of connection become heightened. Bringing this blanket outside the traditional environment of a park invites individuals to slow down and take in spaces that might normally feel transient or distanced. Prompt 1 asks individuals to rest, stay, and bein space, encouraging deeper sensory experiences and reflections within a variety of public landscapes.  

- Woven and felted wool


Prompt 2:

Throughout my spatial explorations, markings and tracings became a key mode for expressing movement and temporary happenings within an environment. The traces of car wheels on pavement, debris lines leading to drains, textures of shoes imprinted onto surfaces, and remnants of seeds spread from a cottonwood tree are all examples of expressions of movement and change within public space. While these say something about the context and narratives within a space since they are immediate expressions of life in a shared environment and time, they are also curiously ambiguous and sometimes unknown. This walking wheel leaves a path on the ground as it moves about an environment. As this prompt interacts with the ground it could trail water from a puddle, mud from soil, or indent a pattern in sand. Walking from one place to another, a path is left on various surfaces indicating one’s temporary presence and visually expressing one’s movement through space. Prompt 2 draws attention to the materiality within an environment; the way markings in public space indicate presence and narrate the many paths of movement within that place. 

- Steel and carved hard elm


Prompt 3:

The sieve facilitates acts of gathering and uncovering materials within public space. The shallow bowl has the relief of various weave textures that naturally guide larger and smaller material particles to separate and sort into the indents and crevices of the sieve. Collecting and sorting is a practice of careful observation; a common activity for individuals to do in nature. One is often drawn to collect and sort materials that personally resonate with them or seem special, such as shells on a beach, rocks from a riverbed, wild flowers from a meadow, or unique sticks and leaves. These practices recognize patterns and processes within nature that produce a specific material quality within an environment. Collected objects like sea glass, leaves, or stones are a reaction of a place, a time, and the unique circumstances that made a material come to be the way it is. In the public realm, the sieve asks engagers to look closer, perhaps to uncover the contents from the bottom of a puddle or from within a sandbox. So often the material occurrences within urban space are not sought or given time; the sieve encourages the practice of finding and reflecting in urban areas. Prompt 3 aims to bring one closer, to question and narrate the unique material processes within a public space. 

- Slip-cast porcelain


Prompt 4:

This prompt came out of a long time practice of public sketching or sketching en plein air, which inspired my use of water to sketch on concrete. When sketching in public space, one is forced to respond to present conditions within a moving environment. For example, decisions must be made such as whether or not to include a biker who is only in the frame for a second or a person sitting who might get up and leave. Sketching with water on concrete removes the size limitations of a piece of paper, thus allowing a fuller embodiment of sketching. The expressions of space that are explored with these vessels allow participants to embody their environment, by gesturing and moving the body with the physicalities of public space. The vessels have various spouts and holes that spill water, leaving lines and markings as the body gestures the movement, angles, curves, and depths of space. Left behind on the ground is an interpretation of a moment that disappears as the water dries. The image left on the ground is not as relevant as the attention to public space that this activity demands. Presence is key in guiding the body to interpret and move in relation to an environment. Prompt 4 focuses on the body, using gesture as a means to embody and mark a moment within space. 

- Slip-cast porcelain


Prompt 5:

This brick press engages thoughts surrounding cycles of existence, permanence, and relevance within public space. A brick is a sturdy, functional, and long-lasting object that traditionally facilitates the building of something permanent and set. In the creation of public space, most representations of place are permanent infrastructures that do not have the capability of changing or responding to an evolving environment. By asking individuals to collect materials that are decomposing, one is prompted to think about the inanimate and animate life cycles around them. Observing the ways an environment is interconnected through constant cycles of life and death, creation and corrosion. Collecting decomposing matter within public space and pressing it into a brick form introduces temporary physical infrastructure that responds to its environment. The brick will degrade in time, and the physicality of a built place will be gone. Public space is in constant change and movement and is therefore never truly still; a place of death for one is a source of life for another. Engaging with materials and thinking about cycles of existence for leaves, beer cans, or sand all say something unique about spatial histories, and possible futures. Prompt 5 draws attention to these physical cycles and addresses the potential for the temporality of place within built space. 

- Steel