Darragh O'Brien Masthead

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Best of State, Best Hospitality and Overall award for Excellence and Innovation at the Design Institute of Australia’s National Interior Design Awards in 2006. IFI Award

type Hospitality Research Experiment
Status Exhibited at Designex in 2005

“It is assumed that the task of reality perception is never completed, that no human being is free from the strain of relating inner and outer reality, and the relief from this strain is provided by an intermediate area of experience which is not challenged (arts, religion, etc.). This intermediate area is in direct continuity with the play area of the small child who is ‘lost’ in play.” (D W Winnicot 1991)

The Solivoid Project was developed over a period of two years, in three different locations, as a series of constructed public events. The first experiment was conducted in 2004 in a small urban gallery at Moubray Street in Albert Park; the second part of the project was developed for Designex 2005, and the final iteration occurred at the Faculty of Art & Design Gallery at Monash University in 2006. As an interdisciplinary project, the outcome was intended to be a seamless environment of architecture, graphic design, industrial design and multimedia activity; each participant being involved, to varying degrees, from concept to completion.
Our perception of being inside is mediated by the degree to which we are connected with events, people, objects and spaces outside. In conceptual terms object is normally perceived as outside while void becomes inside. For this project we set out to explore the threshold between object and void where each could possess the attributes of the other.
The second iteration of this experiment was produced as a working ‘Lounge’ space for Designex 2005; an event that attracted over 20,976 design industry visitors to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Conceived as a respite from the inevitability of event overload, the project sought to operate beyond function, beyond aesthetics; to study the specific role of the interior environment in the framing and formation of human response.
The project brief was to provide visitors with a break from what can be a frenetic environmental experience. Fluctuating need states - such as the need for food or rest – can determine the direction, intensity and length of our attention within a given environment, and therefore the degree to which we are present in the given moment of an event.1

For this project we sought to stretch the moments of entry and exit, redefining the relationship between object and space, and thereby partially suppressing signals from the surrounding environment. In this place between departure and arrival, occupants become suspended in a unique event that is simultaneously both here and there. The challenge was to encourage visitors to respond, not as passive subjects in a simulated environment, but as active participants in a blended reality; a hybrid space that communicated through both digital and physical signifiers.
The inflated half-forms are deliberately designed to be open to interpretation and therefore arouse multiple associations and curiosity. Once seated, half-forms become enclosing surfaces. Through an increase in both scale and proximity we discovered that a hybrid (‘tween) space begins to emerge between the convex and concave surfaces of the installation; the transition from inside to outside becomes seamless and therefore unnoticeable.

1 Although in life we rarely experience a suppression of signals from the surrounding environment, this does occur for limited intervals at various periods.Goffman calls this condition being ‘away’. (Goffman 1963)