How one or two fresh pairs of eyes help

Tuesday’s cross crit was absolutely an eye-opening and refreshing pause-and-reflect button to my progress. I am glad to have another set of fresh eyes in my work at today’s Pimp My Project session with an architect. It is crucial to occasionally pause and reflect on all the work I have done so far and think whether it makes sense and whether it still excites me to go in that direction. If I just keep going without much pondering, I may end up in a one-dimensional black hole.

I could still remember how excited I was when doing my very first fold out drawing – my free-flowing thoughts were instantly visualised on paper in a semi-mindless state, which generated more ideas. However, my project is now branching out in a rigid, conventional, not-exciting-and-challenging-me-anymore way. The past two tutorials were monotonous compared to those before the Romanian trip, and I felt like I wasn’t generating inventive work. Not to say the conventional route is negative, but my big idea did not start with flat-pack homes or easily-assembled Prouvesque/Segalistic structures, it is about duration of homes, the imaging of homes onto house (vice versa). How time is my design brief, explored and debunked with the pinhole experiments. How could design be influenced by the observer’s vs. occupant’s points of perspective and the theatricals of home.

I watched ‘Now You See Me’ and was bewildered by how a simple rabbit mirror box trick is scaled up to a mirrored warehouse to bend the mind into believing that a space is empty when it’s not. How a device can be transformed into a inhabited space. This led me to think – what if I scale up my pinhole camera into a room that fits a person or more, and play with the capturing and displaying of an upside-down-outside world onto the inside space. The photography works on a principle that the real image is inverted when light passes through the pinhole. Could the image be 3dimensionalised by furniture or translucent partitions?

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From ‘Now you see me’ – application of the mirror box device into a human-scale room.
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A pinhole camera device
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An inhabited camera obscura based on the pinhole camera


Making my room a camera obscura
Inhabiting the camera obscura – inverted
Inhabiting the camera obscura
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Leandro Dalston House – using mirror to play with the image of house

In this making my room a camera obscura, I could play with multiple exposures and overlay the image with trace paper as partition walls or using furniture to create an anamorphic image of the outside world. I wanna explore how I could fold in the outside into the inside and vice versa to create a feel for the environment for people living in the space and people observing the space from outside. How I could materialise the senses of home – eg: a wall membrane that vibrates with the sound of people talking or a memory wall that captures the duration imprints of a home or a mirror that reflects the visual senses in multiple dimensions. Can the inside be displayed as a negative of the outside (like the negative pinhole prints become positive after Photoshop editing) ?

What about the literal framework of house as a physical envelope that I have developed so far? It does not need to be constrained by a square grid, it must be more flexible and offers greater variety of shapes and size for the occupants to decide. Like this thing I saw in the science museum (an assembly of triangles can form a hexagon) :

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polyhedron build-yourself toy

The idea of translating the camera construction into a building/house construction is another thing to explore. Raw, found materials, easily assembled by a person in a short time. If a camera can be collapsed, folded, stretched out or rotated to manipulate exposure – Can a house do the same?

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A room-size camera obscura
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A foldable camera

3 thoughts on “How one or two fresh pairs of eyes help

  1. It was great to read your reflection on the cross-crit feedback as well as the list of ideas you have had since. I think the timing of the cross-crit couldn’t have been better since the fresh pair of eyes helps us as much as it does help you – we are so closely involved in discussions about each of your projects that its hard to have distance from them to see how they could change, and having someone new look at them helps us to understand what needs to be different.

    I have been struggling with what didn’t feel right about your project for the last two tutorials, and on Tuesday, I finally understood when seeing all the material at once that the camera is the project and has much more ingenuity and creativity in how you have experimented with its design and output that the rigid grid structure and flat pack system developed for the house. This is not to say that that work has been a waste, since its been incredibly useful in helping you understand how a temporary structure is built, but also in helping us both to understand why that isn’t an interesting route for your project since its already been done. What is interesting is this idea of how the house images itself or becomes a tool to spatialise its inhabitant’s identity – breaking down boundaries between the house (something you build) and the home (something you make).

    The Leandro Erlich example of Dalston House is a good one but look at his other work that all plays with perception using optical illusions, scaled up periscopes, inhabitable swimming pools etc.:

    The presentation on Tuesday was set up very well – as you introduced your concepts clearly and you navigated through a lot of different material with skill. It only fell down when it ended up being something too conventional. As you state above, its good to return to the creative state of mind you were in when you created the folding drawings, thinking about how the folds manifested rather than represented your idea. You often use hexagonal geometry in your folded drawings so think about how that translates spatially into the house. How is the home a self-portrait of its inhabitant?

    This project by my friend Elena might be of interest to you – its looks at how to generate a self-portrait of the city by creating a room that changes in composition according to the viewer/ view:

    On Tuesday, you had to present the folded drawing twice to talk about the expansion of the home but also about the visitors to the site over different lengths of time, how do you make another folded drawing that talks specifically about who comes to the site and over what duration? As their time on site unfolds, how does that translate in terms of exposure, plot size and architectural potential? How do you make a drawing to translate what first interested you in this idea of duration from the British pavilion in Venice?

    I really liked the way you were talking about your project on Tuesday with statements like “transforming observers into inhabitants” or using “time as a design brief that expands and contracts according to changing durational needs” – how does the camera serve as a gateway to do this – to transform a view into a space into a home over different periods of time?

    Find loopholes in the planning constraints that you can interpret to inform your brief. Develop a strategy to tackle this on site in terms of how you take the planning constraints and plot size as your starting point and expand and contract your interventions for the different users. Look at self-build communities and the weird and wonderful structures that emerge out of them through the use and misuse of materials, processes and structures – that idea of mis-reading the planning constraints, or reinterpreting how the site is viewed/ inhabited by an observer/ visitor and how that is translated into a form of home is where the project lies.

    The books I mentioned that might be worth looking at are Housey Housey: A Pattern Book for Ideal Homes, and A House for a House by Chee-Kit Lai which you can find at the following link: – not sure how much they will help in terms of content but they could also just be good visual references.

    You have to be commended for making a first stab at a proposal for Tuesday and that is why the crit was so useful since we had something to respond to. I am really excited to see how this develops for Tuesday in terms of how you start to make new drawings about duration, observers, and camera-space-homes, and also to push this idea of the manual format for the portfolio – not to generate a typical house but instead a new understanding of home.

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