September 19, 2017
Beakerhead! What a wild ride! The intersection between art, science and wonder. A perfect festival for our industry to participate in! Speaking with Beakerhead early in May, we had no idea what sort of project we would be working on. They wanted entrances and signage, which were later refined to creating a focal point for passing into the world of Beakerhead.
We wanted to create a transitional space that would draw people in with curiosity and intrigue. They had to be fun, embody a feeling of exploration, and most importantly draw attention. Essentially a true representation of Beakerhead itself. Thus we came up with the white box, or blank slate. From the outside, the entrances would appear to be a simple white cube. As people came closer they would see the much more colourful and captivating interior that would draw them in to investigate further.
The design is constructed of three very basic elements, something that all buildings have inherently: a skeleton, a skin, and light.
The first element was the skeleton of scaffolding which represents the building blocks to any project, the beginning, and the hypothesis. Here the scaffolding was not meant to be hidden, instead the intention was to have the bones of the structure revealed. A building material often viewed in negative terms, or as a necessary evil, is given a new perspective and a very important role.
The second element was the skin of fabric – a fluid and dynamic element that drapes and folds easily and can move and twist in the wind. Fabric that plays with transparency to provide depth, and differences in saturation. The white mesh that covered the box was semi-transparent and provided texture and ghostliness. The coloured fabric was rich and saturated, and when layered and staggered, it created new blends of colours. Each of the fabrics interacted with the surrounding environment and the people walking through. Children ran their hands along the length of the colours and people looked closer at the surrounding structure through the mesh. The whole structure was breathing when the wind gusted through.
The third element was light – which is so important in every project. There were two considerations for this project as it had to work both in the day and at night. The sunlight provided a vibrancy to the tunnel of colours, creating a kaleidoscope of brightness, and mixed with the shadows of the scaffold. The illumination at night was a wash of light like a lantern, creating a play of shadow and colour, and altering the hue and distinction of the colours. The scaffold was silhouetted against the white mesh and as the fabric moved it created new shadows.
Also important was the concept that we would use materials true to our industry – inspired by projects like the Archifest 2016 Pavilion by DP Architects in Singapore. We chose Scaffold, coloured flagging fabric, construction debris netting, flood lights, and vinyl fence signage. The draping, layering, and colourfulness was inspired by the playfulness of festivals, the nostalgia of the circus tent, and the beauty and fluidity of fabric in the wind (think Tibetan prayer flags).
The addition of the words “I am a Portal,” “I am a Threshold,” and “I am a Door” was used to hammer home the idea that these were to be passed through as a way into the world of Beakerhead. It was also a wayfinding strategy and a means to identify each of the unique entrances. Visitors were actively engaged with many people shouting (mainly the kids) “we are passing through the portal now!”
After five months of planning with our great team of volunteers at the Calgary Kasian office, we were able to bring the entrances to life. This past weekend, it took our team of 12 volunteers almost 30 hours of hard work to setup and take down all three entrances. We persevered through cold and wet weather for setup on Friday, and the entrances survived the windy weather through Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday we dismantled the entrances, much to the disappointment of the people passing by, very satisfied by the work that had been completed.
It was a wonderful opportunity to take something from design to hands-on construction, and to bring a cool concept to life. We had outstanding feedback from the public, and the entrances even made it onto social media. This project would not have been made possible without the time and efforts of our volunteer team. We thank you all for your hard work and effort! Thank you also to the sponsors who provided discounted or donated elements, labour, and planning time.
Cara Oakley (not in team picture above)
Dan Silver (not in team picture above)
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