Author Archive

Opaque-A Sensory Experience

September 22, 2009

 

 

When talking about a sensory experience there is one place that always strikes my mind first. Opaque, is a restaurant located in only in three locations in California. This restaurant is not the common gourmet restaurant; Opaque provides a unique and unforgettable sensory experience to each one of its customers.

Upon arrival customers are directed to a lounge were they can enjoy a few cocktails before dinner. Here, they are asked to check in all personal belongings and choose two different dinner options from the menu before proceeding to the main dinning room.  The dinning room is a pitch-black room where even the waiters are unable to see. Staff members are thoroughly trained to carry on with their duties without light but when needed they work with the aid of a night vision camera.

Dinner begins just as in a normal restaurant, but here the customer does not know which of the two dinner options they are being served. The idea behind this kind of experience is to enhance the other four senses while taking sight away. When the food is brought out the customer needs to touch around their table in order to find the silverware, napkins and food. At first, eating can be somewhat complicated, many have admitted missing their mouth with the food completely or hitting their nose instead of the lips with the rim of the glass. While trying to get the plate-to-mouth in the dark coordination, the senses of smell and taste are also being tested. Several have said that the food tastes differently because they are not relying on the appearance of the food to influence its taste. People tend to create certain expectations on how the food should tasted based on its appearance. Another sense that is affected during this experience is sound. While eating, the customers tend to engage with the people are seated with. Having a regular conversation is also a very different experience to perform in the dark. Trying to figure out who is saying what and where is their voice coming from tests the sense of hearing to a maximum.

After one or two hours of enjoying dinner in the dark, customers are allowed to leave and pay at the exit. Here they are also told what they were served. It is not surprising to find a customer that claim they ate chicken when in fact they had beef. By enhancing these senses the client becomes more aware of the importance of sight in such a common activity.

This space provides a very interesting experience because is takes an everyday activity and turns it into a complete overhaul of the senses. Not a lot of people realize all the senses used during this common activity, and while many will dislike this restaurant, others will remember it forever not only for its great food, but also for the unique sensory experience offered to the customers.

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Saxby’s Coffee Shop

September 15, 2009

 plan1     sketchyplan

loungesketch        IMG_1964

coffee bar   study bar

The Chosen space is a coffee shop called Saxbys’ on the corner of 23rd street and Rio Grande. This is a place where I spend most of the time studying.  The space is of medium size. It consists of a small lounge area, study bar area, bathrooms, coffee bar and backroom. The plan shows only the coffee bar, lounge and study bar.  The shop is surrounded with tall glass windows that let in a vast amount of natural light. The windows are located on the east and north side keeping direct sunlight out of the space. Otherwise the shop has ambient lighting and task lighting. The light meter had a reading of 43 foot-candles over lounge table area, 46 foot-candles over the coffee counter. This is about 500 Lux which not too dark, not to bright, and perfect lighting socializing.  The study bar area had a reading of 90 foot-candles  (970 Lux), which is better for reading and studying because this lighting level tends to keep people more awake. Depending on the amount of people present at the coffee shop the sound varies.  The sound meter measured 60 decibels when its just ambient music and 70 decibels when people are having a conversation. The temperature of the space is kept at 75 F, which provides a sense of comfort and a pleasant environment.

 

The space has tall ceilings and major walls painted a maroon color. The columns around the perimeter are painted a yellow mustard color and the wood is a dark wood.  The floor consists of dark color tiles with inserts of light color ones every four feet. The shop also has two televisions, and shelves for several items on display.  People in this space come to do two things, they either come to get coffee and chat with their friends, or get coffee and study.  The furnishings here are arranged in several groups. The sketch that I drew is a perspective of the lounge. It consists of three side chairs, a love seat a center table and three small side tables. This is the most comfortable space in the entire shop where people usually sit and chat with others. There are other sets of round tables with two chairs distributed along the perimeter of the space. These tables are mostly used to study or have a more intimate conversation. The center area is kept mostly empty for customers to be able to circulate through the space when it gets busy, without interruption people that are studying. The study bar is about 16’ long and has five stools. The people that sit at this place face looking outside and enjoy the natural light pouring through the tall windows.

 

As far as remembering the space I was pretty accurate with the overall space and furnishing arrangements. Some details were left behind specially one that was extremely surprising. In the sketch I drew there are two hanging pieces of art work over the study lounge sofa. When I went back to visit the space I realized there is a huge painting on the wall that predominates this space. I didn’t remember this painting because I spend most of the time sitting on the big love seat therefore; I am never facing this wall.

Eating

September 7, 2009

Eating is one of the most common and self-explanatory motives. It is considered to be psychologically important and necessary for our survival. The high demand for food has made people create a built environment in which to eat, whether it is commercial, such as a restaurant, cafeteria, or fast-food chain restaurant, or residential, such as a formal dinning room, breakfast room, or kitchen.

Here are two examples of spaces that humans have created as a result of this motive. On one hand there is the more intimate space at home where people like to eat either alone or with the family. Although this space varies from person to person, it is normally configured in proximity to the kitchen and secluded from other distractions. We have created this environment so we can sit while eating, in a somewhat comfortable position while socializing with others. This space consists of three major elements; a table, chairs, and a light fixture. Not a lot people recognize the importance of the light fixture over the center of the table. Light, plays a very important role during the act of eating. Without light we wouldn’t be able to see what we are eating, or see the people we are sharing a conversation with.  Several reports from people who have been to Opaque, report that eating in the dark is a completely different experience. Opaque is a restaurant operated in California, where costumers are blindfolded and taken to a pitch-black room. The client doesn’t know what food they are being served. At the end of the meal the customers are asked to guess what food they had but the majority of the guesses are wrong. This demonstrates the important role light plays while eating.

The motive of eating has also driven people to create such spaces as restaurants. These are more public areas where the common end goal is to eat. The space is a re-creation of the common dinning room at home at a larger scale in order to accommodate a large number of people. Most commonly, the restaurant, whether it is a very economical one or very expensive one, will also consist of these three basic elements; Light, tables and chairs. Weather the restaurant is outside, inside, large scale or small scale, restaurants have been made based on our motive to eat and will always contain the three elements mentioned before.

Normally, people go to restaurants accompanied by someone else. The seating arrangement and the table are purposely made so people can socialize with others. The act of socializing at restaurant whether is with multiple people or just a single person is an intermediate motive to the end motive, eating. People go to restaurants to socialize and eat, not a lot of people go to restaurants to sit there and not order any food. Although this might happen in certain occasions where one is not hungry, the set up and built environment of the restaurant is ultimately due to the motive of eating.

Last, I wanted to give some consideration to the kitchen. Although the kitchen is primarily used for cooking, cooking is an intermediate motive, which leads to eating, the end motive. Although the kitchen has not been specifically designed to eat, many have developed it into a place where cooking and eating is integrated. Newer kitchens are being designed with larger countertops, and islands where people are able to eat in a less formal set-up. This also provides a space where one could be cooking, and the other could be eating. It is also a space designed for convenience, one in which the food doesn’t need to be transported as far, and can be easily served after preparation.

Harry Potter-Hogwarts School

August 31, 2009

 

 

The following movie still comes from a scene in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince directed by David Heyman. This movie is based on the sixth book from a series of seven Harry Potter books by British author J.K Rowling. The majority of the movie is set at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is a boarding school located somewhere in Scotland where witches and wizards go to learn and practice their magic. The Harry Potter movies are largely set at the school, which is only accessible by Hogwarts express train, making it one of the most important set to the movies.

 

The school has several spells and charms around it in order to make it virtually impossible for the muggles (non-magical people) to see it. On the exterior, the school has the appearance of a scary-looking castle with several towers and battlements protruding upwards. Hogwarts is composed of several dormitories, common areas, classrooms and great halls. The interior is filled with gothic arches, ribbed vaulting and clearstories allowing natural light into the space. The school is where everything happens; it is not only a place where the students learn about magic and how to use it, but also a place where they socialize, sleep, and eat. Most of the scenes are shot with a high contrast between light and dark, and colors used throughout the movie are typically kept to dark and earthy tones. The school’s gothic look, secret passages, moving staircases and the infamous forbidden forest that surrounds it reinforce the movies theme of mystery-adventure-fantasy.

 

Although Hogwarts structure has several windows and clearstories, there are screen shots in which natural light is completely avoided to create a feeling of mystery.  The following still is from a scene in Dumbledore’s office, the schools headmaster, where Harry and him have a very important and serious conversation. The office space contains tall gothic arches, a big and tall dark wood desk and several candle lights. The golden object on the left of Dumbledore is a storage unit. This piece contains a great amount gothic detail that aids in the creation of the mood in the room. The use of lighting or “candlelight” is one of the most important elements that helps create the movies mood. The use of light in this specific screen still helps articulate the form and structure of the room. There is a high contrast between dark and tall spaces and the very specific “candlelight” that helps to create a sense of mystery in this scene.

Since the majority of the movie is set at the Hogwarts school, and it not only acts as a backdrop for the movies plot, but also helps create the overall style and mood of the movie.

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