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    Urban Islands days 2 & 3

    Nick Sowers
    Jul 15, '09 1:02 PM EST

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    Day 2

    Another packed day in Sydney. We all met up at Circular Quay, all set, if a bit bleary-eyed, to embark for Cockatoo Island, the site of the Urban Islands design workshop. First on the agenda would be a crit of the individual design project handed to us yesterday: to design a volume that transforms from one face to another within a prescribed volume. Fifty some-odd students stood around chatting with shopping bags containing meticulous 18x18x30cm bulges. I carried mine in my hand, a bit of a risk I realized, should a gust of wind sweep it into the water as our ferry bobbed over to the island. We had a bit of fun peeking into each other’s bags, getting to know each other through our architectural ideas.

    The ferry pulled into the wharf after a twenty minute ride from the Quay. In the oblique winter morning light, the island’s abandoned machinery and limestone bluff cast long shadows across the Eastern Apron, itself a piece of reclaimed land. We step onto the island, many of us for the first time. It crosses my attention that while the imagined reality of the island has been breached and is now real, its mythical proportions have only begun to swell.

    Urban Islands

    Led by the instructors, we walk over to building 123, a former workshop with a wall of cubby holes designed to hold specific bolts and various tools. As we installed the pieces into the cubby holes, the studio list was posted. I saw my name listed under Geoff’s and chatted with some of the other students who also got his studio. The atmosphere of the old workshop was charged. The crowd gathered by the cubby holes. We then went one by one and gave a thirty second explanation of our volume .

    Urban Islands

    My piece is an acoustic amplifier for the chamber in which it is installed. A box naturally acts as an amplifier (perhaps the most effective option would have been to leave the cubby hole empty, but of course you have to do something). I was also interested in merging the object with the room, making it a sort of instrument-extension of the room. So what happens is this: as you approach the void with your ear, the room is amplified, until your ear reaches the threshold of cubby hole. Your ear then presses against the box-within-a-box, and the amplification of the white noise swirling around the room is amplified by the Helmholtz effect. (It's not actually the sound of blood rushing through your head when you put a cup or shell to your ear--it's the amplification of white noise that you might otherwise tune out).

    Urban Islands

    (The other side of the thing looks like a ballistic weapon.)

    A short discussion followed, but we were already running late. I think the exercise was useful to gauge both for yourself what you are bringing to the workshop and for the instructors to know what you are up to. It will be increasingly obvious that I am using the workshop to further my interest in sound. That fact, I think, is painfully obvious. I'm now known as "that sound guy from Berkeley".

    We then broke up into groups and Geoff introduced his goals for the studio. (In the interest of time, as I have heaps of work to do still tonight, I will post about the studio description in the next couple of days.) We got a tour of the island and then fought off the seagulls looking to join us for lunch. I can't take you on the tour, unfortunately, but here are a few links if you want to learn a bit more about the island:

    from the Urban Islands website
    Sydney Harbour Trust Management Plan
    From the symposium on Monday night
    Audio Tour of the Island (my own will come soon)

    The day finished with a talk from Dan Hill of City of Sound first, then Geoff Manaugh about BLDG BLOG second. It was pretty neat to see the two together, and to think about how they speculate about many of the same things but in radically different ways. I recorded the lectures (sound only) and will be happy to share them--just send me an email.

    Day 3

    Today we met in studio and the object of the day seems to have been to fill a white board:

    Urban Islands

    Obviously this warrants explanation, but blog time is up.

    You can follow Urban Islands and/or myself (Soundscrapers) on Twitter, where I hope to be extending the studio dialogue to the larger architecture community. A question looms for me: how can the blog be made into a productive agent in this design workshop?


    • Dialog? interactivity, mini-crits "judging" of your own ideas proposals by readers/audience (ie: thumbs up/down etc)...
      Javier and Kazy's started an interesting discussion along these lines in their blogs a few months back.

      Jul 15, 09 2:53 pm  · 

      I remember reading their discussion. That got me jump started on this. I think one thing that will be difficult to overcome is sheer the amount of information that is processed by being here. I feel like I have hardly explained what's been going on, and with a project that is as speculative as this is turning out to be, I wonder if the archinect readers will be able to follow along.

      Jul 16, 09 10:19 am  · 

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