PIXEL PERGOLA

Client: Helsinki Design Week
Location: Keskuskatu, Helsinki
Status: Completed 2018
Fabricators: Paja & Bureau
Partners: Arabia Elementary School
Sponsors: Tikkurilla, PEFC

Introduction

This project is a reinvention of a classic Pergola structure which is defined as “a structure usually consisting of parallel colonnades supporting an open roof of girders and cross rafters.” Rather than using plants to activate the pergola as is often the case, the project utilises many acrylic spheres with a coloured discs behind to create “pixels” that change colour as you move through the space.  This effect is designed to encourage the students of the college to feel more physically present in the space – an important tool in the practice of mindfulness. The scheme is constructed from 13 horizontal panels each containing 81 pixels and 20 vertical units each containing 36 pixels. Over the whole installation there is a total of 1773 pixels. The horizontal and vertical panels are suspended in the air by vertical posts, locking together to create a rigid framework.

The installation was developed in collaboration with the students of Beaufort College where the effects of the acrylic spheres were explored as part of the research and development phase.

Concept

The increasing concern about safety in the public realm means that it might be hard to trust strangers we encounter. We feel that design can be used to create situations where people can start conversations and empathise with others.

The name of “Chatroulette (IRL)” is inspired by the online chat website Chatroulette that pairs random users for web-cam based conversations. During the conversation, either user may leave by initiating another random connection. The aim of the installation, like the original Chatroulette, is to encourage communication between strangers.

The installation is composed of a series of shell like structures, each of which can be occupied by one or many users. All of the shells are interconnected with a network of viewing tubes. Once inside, the user can rotate a section with a circular window that allows a view into the tubes. When two shell users are looking down the same tube, the users can see each other and may interact. This continues until one use decides to rotate the inside again.

Through this simple activity, the artwork creates countless new interactions between strangers that otherwise would not have taken place. These interactions will create a new sense of trust between the participants.

Technical description

The shells of the installation were fabricated using CNC cut 18mm ply clad in thin 1.5mm plywood. The graphic painted stripes were applied by hand off-site and are designed to emulate the appearance of shells. The metal structure was fabricated using a combination of rolled steel sheet and standard circular hollow sections. The slight slope of the site was accommodated using adjustable feet. The installation is made of PEFC certified wood which originates from sustainably managed forests.