Project DescriptionPique was designed and built as an entry for ArtPrize®, an art competition that transforms the buildings and pedestrian spaces of Grand Rapids, Michigan into public galleries. As architects, we seek to grow from the process of design, prototype, fabrication and installation to transform space for the physical, social, psychological and emotional benefit of our community. Our creative passion and desire to transform spatial experience compelled us to participate in ArtPrize, despite the financial and personal time commitments involved.
The Pique immersive installation was intended to delight and surprise by promoting active participation and viewing vantage points to observe the curious exploration. The story of Alice in Wonderland was reviewed in conceptual discussions, and became an underlying theme in designing the emotional plot. Alice became the metaphor for the curious wanderer, and our solution for enhancing the fantasy and exploratory nature of the human experience through manipulation of textures, light, sound, color and equilibrium became the “rabbit hole.”
The installation greeted individuals with a dense bosque of clear, acrylic tubes. They hung like chimes reflecting images and refracting light, creating a kaleidoscope of the experience. Participants influenced the tubes to work their way through the construct, inventing music and art through their journey. Hidden within the array was a place of solitude—a void in the chimes—promoting respite and reflection. The walls fracture to reflect sound, direct light and infiltrate the space amplifying the sensory encounter.
Another layer inherent in the concept was the intrinsic connection between the human brain’s hemispherical nature and the marriage of architecture and engineering in the creation of the built environment. Walls, floor, structure and ceiling metaphorically embody the left and right sides of the human brain. Both sides work in harmony, but process stimulus differently. Logic, rational thinking and analysis—embodied by the structured repetition of the peg board—are processed in the left hemisphere, while intuition, holistic approaches and spontaneity—expressed through the organic fingers of the plywood walls—are processed in the right hemisphere. The environment fueled each side of the brain creating a frenzy of activity—enriching the event, capturing spatial memory and promoting navigation. The participant interacted with the installation becoming the artist of time. The artistic turnover was reflected in light and sound viewed through the glass from the exterior front porch, transforming the participant into a performance artist. A rabbit hole continuum.
Though we took the opportunity to explore such a radical concept, we felt it necessary to include typical project constraints for Pique. Acting as the client, designer, and builder, our challenges were self-imposed and had to be resolved through collaboration. There was a narrow timeline of approximately three months to design, build, and install the work, the majority of which was done during the team’s personal time. Though the budget of $3,500 was self-established, it was strictly regarded throughout the process influencing construction methods, materials, and marketing decisions.
ArtPrize provided us an opportunity to refine our talents, contribute to the community and build camaraderie. The modest scale of the project enabled team members to break out of the office routine by getting their hands dirty and actively engaging the environment as a user, not just as a provider.