BackPole

Concept

How liberating to be an architect these days. Never before have dominant systems been so frail. If you can avoid hubris and over-reach, there are compelling, if daunting, spaces waiting to be explored. Freed from the fascination of the finite, and confronted with new ecologies, economies, energies, flows, and fantasies, we can begin to comprehend, and depict, a new image of life on earth, that of a seemingly elastic cloud. Everything has become untethered. We bounce about, footloose, on a network of intersections and knots.

In Pole Dance we continue our exploration of architecture’s potential to create sensorially charged environments rather than finite forms. We consider the choreography of situations rather than object making which is essential in the case of a temporary structure which needs to perform two seemingly contradictory tasks: calming and carousing. We imagine a participatory environment that reframes the conceptual relation between humankind and structure, an interconnected system constantly affected by human action and environmental factors, such as rain and wind. Confronted with its unfamiliar elasticity, visitors instinctively engage with the structure: testing its limits, composing games, or just watching its gentle dance.

The project consists of a 16×16 foot grid of 30 foot high poles connected by bungee cords. Movement is controlled by the elasticity of the cord and pivot of the pole. The grid accommodates a number of activators, such as hammocks, pulls and mister-rings. These leverage points are the interface between visitor and system. A small local action ripples across the larger system. The gently swaying columns broadcast these ripples over the courtyard walls to the city and the world beyond.

An open net covers the entire field and controls the maximum pivot of the poles. The net gives the space a sense of interiority – amplifying the effect of movement – and supports a generous number of brightly colored balls. The balls deflect the net, offer shade, and give the appearance of a game whose rules need to be invented. Near the center, the net drops down to accommodate a pool. The horizontal roof plane is dimensional, but the form remains an outline or wireframe. The entire structure over-stretches a landscape of hammocks, misters, pools and plants: a light, colorful environment in constant flux.

The framework creates a dynamic – deliberately indeterminate – atmosphere. There is no baseline or reboot. With no end and no result, the process becomes an incessant loop, a delicate construct of transforming frames, offering an intensely uplifting experience. It is our belief that such an environment re-engages the public with the physical realm, triggering increased awareness and care for the direct environment.

The small courtyard adjacent to the main space holds a surprise, an immersive, interactive courtyard where visitors can create and control a rich sound experience from within the installation. Eight poles contain accelerometers – electronic devices that measure the motion of the poles – connected to custom software that converts motion into tones specifically composed for the installation.

In its passive state, sound is generated by wind moving the network of poles and netting. As the space is populated, the audience triggers tones by pushing, pulling or shaking the poles. Rapid and shallow movements create locally oscillating tones, while large, tilting movements create ripples of sound throughout the courtyard as the network of connected poles are set in motion. The installation enables up to eight participants to simultaneously play the poles, transforming the structure into a multi-user instrument.

An interactive iPhone app allows visitors to affect the quality of sound for each pole in real time. By turning the effects levels up or down the audience can collaboratively vote to change the active sound of their environment. The application also collects the movements of the interactive poles and visualizes the dynamic activity and movement within the installation in real time.

The entire system is assembled of a readymade kit-of-parts. The details allow for the system to be broken down without material degradation. Most components will be repurposed after the installation is closed.