This year, I had the opportunity to participate in Superstudio held by Australian Institute of Architects. This 2.5-day architectural competition focuses on the conceptual understanding of space and architecture in relation to the brief – this year, the brief asked for the solutions to social, political and cultural challenges that we face in the society through the ‘vision of future’. Since many architectural competitions require highly finished drawings and visual presentation skills which I haven’t got, the fact this competition was open to any year levels of architecture students encouraged me to give it a go.
Paired up with Luke, who graduated bachelor last year and starts Masters next year, we explored the root cause of the segregation of ethnic minority groups as well as socially marginalised groups such as homeless people. We came to the point that one of the reasons is the instant judgement on the individual’s physical appearance that associate one with stereotypical political and social overtones. We challenged this notion by bringing the focus of human interaction on people’s personalities and ideas they share with others, through incorporating the digital media and real world (since the brief asks for the future of the public space, we simply decided to make it completely speculative!).
Our key concept was to create an underground space where individuals’ physical appearance is represented by singular, uniform human figure upon the entry into space. The purpose is to provide space that allows people with different backgrounds to have their own voice without becoming the subjects of judgement by physical appearance. This is to be achieved by the incorporation of anonymous nature of digital space, and the face-to-face interaction of reality. Individuals in the space are still able to express their emotions through uniform voice (such as AI or Siri), at the same time not being categorised or labelled by their social status in the society. Below is the transcript of the final presentation:
In contemporary society, the differences in people’s culture and appearances create a social segregation due to stereotypical perception. This is evermore present in the city such as Melbourne, where there is a large number of minority groups including LGBT groups, communities based on cultural or racial connections, and homeless people.
The project Voices in Sphere, is a speculative project that challenges the notion of virtual space and the real world, creating a new platform that reflects positive elements of both spaces through the vision of the future. It attempts to mitigate our judgement at the first sight and provide everyone to talk to one another as equal.
This project incorporates the idea of anonymity in digital media and the face to face interaction provided by the real world. This idea of anonymity allows people to raise their own voice regardless of their gender, age, social status or ethnic background. On the other hand, the real world has the face-to-face interaction that involves the rich expression of emotion.
Our project is located underground near city square working as a central public space that connects key locations in Melbourne CBD. The form of the space is a compound of spheres which emphasizes the idea of unity while suggesting that it’s not the part of the physical built world. The top of the sphere sticks out of the ground creating a connection between the two worlds.
Space is organised according to activities that are held in public spaces, which includes interaction, informative and entertainment. with an observation hub located at the central working as a connection between the three key aspects.
People enter into space from various gates around Melbourne CBD using the pod transportation system. In the pod, the individuals’ physical appearance, the degree of anonymity and their interests are registered into the system. As a representation of anonymity, the space of Sphere transforms individuals’ physical appearances into one singular, uniform look of a person during this transport.
In the interactive zone, users interact using visual representations on the gallery alongside the interior wall, which resembles the display of personal experiences on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. These images trigger interaction between people who may have similar interests.
In the informative zone, there are pods of spaces that allow people to exchange questions and answers like the online discussion forum. Each pod may be assigned as the space for particular topics.
We believe that this space would function as a space for everyone, including minority groups, to reflect on their ideas and personalities rather than their physical appearances, and feel confident with who they are.
Since my initial intention for participating in this competition was to develop my skill of unpacking brief and coming up with a concept that is distinctive and unique, I think I was able to fulfil these purpose in this event. It was very inspiring and exciting to see other groups’ presentations that involved different design approaches to the same brief. Many presentations displayed such a sophisticated and clear representation of their concepts and design interventions, which made me realise the importance of learning digital visualisation techniques for enhancing the visual communication with the audience.