Shedding Light in Dark Places

I feel as though recently, the work of architects has strayed very far from the purpose of architecture. That purpose being, to provide a place for the inhabitants. By this I do not mean simply creating a structure to provide shelter from the elements, but much more. Architecture should create a place of being. The inhabitants should be able to connect emotionally with a place that is created and to feel comfortable and it should move them emotionally. I feel that in recent years there has been a boom in the development of “starchitects”. This is not good and makes me feel that they are simply designing selfishly by creating something that is from their emotions. To me, it’s like they built a giant sculpture that has no soul and has no relation to those who will inhabit it.

It gives me great hope though when I stumble across artists and architects that are trying to make a difference and are trying to help the rest of society. There are pleanty of well known examples out there such as even what Tom Fischer spoke to us about his project made with the shipping creates, and there’s even books like Design Like You Give a Damn which cover a variety of projects internationally. Recently, I have discovered the idea of SonUmbra.

SonUmbra was developed as part of Moma’s exhibit on experimenting with responsive textile architecture. It is shaped like a tree and is completely powered with solar power. At night, it comes a live and lights up. The material forms branches and creates patterns of light. It is responsive as well so as someone walks by it, the branches appear to “wave” as if in a breeze in response to the prescence. I think this is a very unique idea and helps the passerby relate and interact with their surroundings. As you walk by it and notice the patterns change, you keep walking back and forth interacting with it to see how the patterns mix.

What the design firm Loop.pH had in mind for this “tree” was to install it in towns and villages that can’t afford electricity to light their paths thus providing a safe walking space for people at night. I think a playful and safe idea like this will be successful in a place that cannot afford electricity.We’ve all heard many times from Jane Jacobs that one of the ways to make a safe street is having plenty of light. To install these in places that would otherwise be very dark and dangerous, this would be one step closer to providing safety and getting people back onto the streets.

As I’ve stated earlier, there are many architects and designers out there trying to design for the people, I just have never seen someone utilize a new material and make it with intentions to provide to the less fortunate. This is why this particular find interested me.


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