Author Archive

Sound Mirrors

September 22, 2009

post this oneSutter Fort Park, Sacramento, Californiaup close

Prior to World War II and the invention of radar, acoustic mirrors were built as early warning devices around the coasts of Great Britain, with the aim of detecting airborne invasions. These mirrors are large concrete hemispherical domes that reflect sound to the center foci. Microphones placed at foci the  of the reflectors enabled a listener to detect the sound of aircrafts several kilometers out in the English Channel. My idea takes this primitive device and relocates it within modern contexts. Sound mirrors or sound theatres can be used at a more urban or residential scale as installations for people to sit and interact within. The premise is to sit within the concrete dome, which could be oriented in any direction, and that sounds of the surroundings become amplified as they are reflected and echoed within the dome.

 This could be used within the context of a rural residence to sit and reflect upon nature, as the sounds of nature will become amplified. Close to the beach the sound of waves breaking could be heard clearly 200 meters away, along with the singing of sea-birds. Sitting in a sound mirror nested below a forest of trees will allow the observer to hear the swaying of the branches in the wind in a way he may have never heard.

 It could also be used facing a busy pedestrian street which, while walking past it, would distort and reflect the sounds of the city in a unique way, if only for a moment. People may walk by recognizing a change in their perception of sound without necessarily knowing why or what changed it. I like the idea of sound mirrors being placed sporadically throughout an urban pedestrian streetscape, because as people walk by, they will inadvertently become aware of their sense of hearing as the monotonous sounds of everyday life (which are often blocked out) change in a small pocket of space. It could heighten their senses and, as they pass, possibly cause them to discover what they may have been ignoring.


Living Room

September 14, 2009

memory sketch


In this special forensics exercise I studied a space I felt I should have a very good memory and understanding of, my living room. During the first part of this exercise, when I had to visualize and sketch this space by memory, I had a difficult time recalling finishes and patterns. I think I was fairly accurate about the placing of objects within the room and the general size of the space; however, I forgot some objects within the room and was a little inaccurate about some spatial qualities.

 During the second part of this exercise I went to my living room and analyzed it factually. The first thing I inspected was my walls and wall coverings. The first thing I noticed was I had vertical wood paneling on the walls that were painted white. I had known that my walls were white but up until then, would not have been able to tell you that they are clad in wood paneling. I had remembered to include a base wood molding in my memory sketch, but failed to recall any wood molding where the wall meets the ceiling. As far as the pieces of art I had hung on the walls, I knew the general location of my posters, but had no idea the order that they were hung in or color of any of the particular posters. I then inspected my ceilings. Firstly, I had no idea that I had that speckled ‘bumpy’ finish on my ceilings. I also previously believed the ceiling height to be 12 feet, but upon actual measurement, found them to only be only 10 feet high. I think the reason for this miscalculation was my previous apartment had ridiculously low ceilings right above the door thresholds, and when I moved into my current apartment, with substantially higher ceilings, I felt like they were so high in comparison. I then started to look at the fabrics within my living space. I knew that my couch was in a retro plaid fabric, but had no memory of it being green, blue and white. I assume that, because it has a fabric with a busy pattern, that fact stood out to me more when trying to recall the qualities of the couch. I also was able to recall the size and color of the rug in my room, however, I did not indicate that it was a shag carpet, which is an important quality for visualizing the rug.

 I also had the chance to measure the light levels within the space. I measured the light levels at the level I do work, meaning my coffee table. During the day, when natural light through my glass door is flooding the room, the light levels were around 60 foot-candles, which is completely adequate for doing work. At night when the blinds are closed and I am forced to rely on artificial light, I was only getting about 7 foot-candles on the coffee table. I don’t have any dominant overhead light in the living room and have to rely on a lamp. This amount of light is more along the lines of dim comfortable light, but it is inadequate for work or reading.  As a result I have to read sitting directly under the lamp. I did have a good understanding of the lighting situation in my living room during the memory sketching part of this exercise, and I was not surprised at the results of the light measurements.


September 7, 2009


The designs of space people work and live in communicate the relative status of the owner or occupier. How space is used and the objects placed within it can be indicators of rank. It is in our human nature to seek out and find our place within social hierarchies, and the spaces individuals or groups occupy helps us to discern not only where we belong within social hierarchies, but also where others do. This is evident when studying the traditional office space and its layout.

Office space is an expensive commodity within an office building. Office space is traditionally rented, and the size of the space rented usually indicates a business’ success or worth, which can indicate status among other business’. There usually isn’t a direct need for a company to occupy the 80th floor of a prominent high rise in downtown Manhattan, however many companies do, largely as a display of their companies wealth or success and financial capability to do so. Individual workspace size within the traditional office generally indicates the level of importance or prominence of the person occupying that space. Generally speaking, the more prominent the employee, the more space is allotted. Employees with the most space allotted for their work or office indicates that the business they work for, feels it worth the cost for that those employees to be as comfortable as possible.

The comfort level of workspace is also an indicator of status with a company.  Most people feel comfortable when adequate privacy, both visual and audible, is provided. Lower or mid-level workers within a business, such as support staff, often sit at desks within large open spaces, with or without partitions. There is a low since of privacy within these spaces; therefore it is not the most comfortable of spaces to work in. Privacy can also indicate the level of trust a company has for employees to do their job productively and efficiently. Top officers within a company usually occupy the proverbial corner office, with two window exposures and ample square footage.  These spaces are typically fully enclosed for both visual and audible privacy, and are therefore more comfortable for these employees. Within an office, there is also a limited amount of window space with views looking outside. Having ‘a room with a view’ is also a way to interpret an employee’s status within a company.

Ultimately, having a higher status within a business is a motivation for employees to move forward and to work hard.  Prominent spaces within the office space aren’t specifically indicators of an employee’s personal wealth, but indicators of an employee’s personal skill and accomplishment within a business.

Where The Wild Things Are…

September 1, 2009



This film has not yet been released, but the stills and previews that have been are leaving me ‘wildly’ anticipating its arrival. The visual conceptualization supersedes what I have imagined this story to ‘look like’in the past as a child reading the book before bedtime. The concept of bringing the imaginary creatures of a child into the landscape of reality is a beautiful interpretation of the moral to the story, that reality is a state of mind and that our dreams can have a direct and very real impact in our lives.

The film is shot with the intermingling of realities (the landscape and the child Max) and computer generated imagery (the ‘Wild Things’). The physical landscapes play an important role in the overall dreamy mood to the film. Although the physical appearances of the landscapes exist in reality, they also have an element to them that seems to primarily exist in our imaginations. For instance in the image above, Max and his fellow Wild Thing are on a voyage through a vast and empty desert. For the most of us, when asked to visualize an endless, sand filled desert, we would recollect tidbits from television or images we have seen in a National Geographic. Few have the personal experience of being in the middle of the desert, to recollect actual memories. In this way, although we believe that these places exist in reality, many of us are forced to imagine what they look and feel like. The scenes in this movie take place primarily in landscapes like the middle of a vast desert, or the edge of the highest mountain peak, or standing below a forest of huge ancient trees. These places resonate with our imagination, despite the fact that we know that they exist in our world. Thus our imagination can begin to resonate with the imagination of the main character Max. The scene engages with the viewer and stimulates imagination bringing all of the characters to life, even the Wild Things.

 The lighting in the scenes is another aspect of the environment that brings the characters into reality and to life. In the image above the light is bouncing off the sand dunes (something real) in the same fashion that it is bouncing off of the child Max (something real), as well as in the same fashion that it is bouncing off of the fir of the Wild Thing (something imagined). All of these aspects of the scenes begin to blur the distinction between reality and imagination in a beautiful coherent way.