Newcastle Station Clock

Newcastle Station Clock

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Architects in SPAAAAACE! (or not)

A group of fools known as Bureau Spectacular have made this pointless contraption, a rotating module that is supposed to explore zero gravity architecture and furniture. The mad scientists themselves had this to say about it: "This installation grew from the hypothesizes [sic] that in zero-gravity, one can rotate in architecture and treat all surfaces as plans – i.e., walls, ceilings and floors. Without gravity, all surfaces can be occupied. The distinctions between orthographic drawings become obsolete."

Some readers may be able to sense from my tone here that I think the whole premise of the design is, um, a bit flawed - but here's the original article if you wish to read it:

My objections are as follows: it does not 'replicate zero gravity', as claimed at the start, or even 'replicate a series of moments which, together, would replicate a gravity-less environment', a less bold claim which is still not true (and also I don't think that's more interesting at all (and come to think of it, who is this Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan to tell me what is "actually more interesting" anyway?)). What can be claimed is that if it were possible to inhabit all the possible seating positions at once, it would - to correct the original - "replicate a series of moments which, together, would replicate sitting in a centrifuge". Which is definitely not as interesting or eye catching a concept. The use of the phrase 'zero gravity' is a lie to attract attention to the project. Because words with a 'z' in them look cool, and space is cool, so if you say 'zero-gravity' everyone will start listening... but if you say 'highly inconvenient centrifuge living' no-one will give a damn.

And besides, the fact that over time you can use it 'upside-down' is neither interesting nor remarkable. The two instances are separated by the dimension of time - so it's therefore as interesting and remarkable as the fact that in the day time, you're one way up, then at night time you're the other way up. Which has happened to you every day that you're alive, and I bet you never made a press release about it, have you?

In real zero gravity, furniture essentially becomes obsolete. Watch videos of astronauts if you don't believe me - really the only thing that is of any use is some kind of harness or tether to stop you floating somewhere you don't want to be. I've seen a video of an astronaut eating dinner - he has no chair because he's floating, and what could be more comfy than that? He holds the plate in his left hand, which requires basically no effort because it is weightless, and eats with a fork in his right. And half way through eating, he simply lets go of the plate and fork, changes some dials or something on a console, and then grabs his food again, floating right where he left it. No dining table, no chair, no problem. If you think about it, pretty much all furniture was only developed as a way to help deal with pesky gravity.

Interestingly, Bureau Spectacular, led by Jimenez Lai, developed the concept after reading a comic book written by... Jimenez Lai. So what this all tells me is that there is a guy out there who's surname is pronounced the same as the word 'lie', who has a massive ego, really struggles with the concept of zero gravity, and most probably writes really crappy comic books.

Ok, so let's be nice and leave the whole zero gravity confusion out of it. What does this project still have of merit? Well, it's an exploration of furniture that has no 'up' - that can be used at different angles and still be comfortable. Kind of like an ergonomics puzzle. So let's have a look at some people testing those ergonomics:
Is it just me, or does the guy essentially leaning against the wall in the foreground look like the only person who is vaguely comfortable there? Even then, I'm pretty sure a beer in hand will make anyone look more comfy than they actually are.

So, congratulations on a job well done, to Bureau Spectacular and in particular to Jimenez Lai. It's a very nice pointlessly spinning box. I hope you didn't spend too much time and money on it.

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