Hanging Matters

Presented by: Lois Weinthal, Jordan Evans, Evan Jerry, and Ryla Jakelski

Our everyday environment is comprised of a series of interconnected narratives through space and people, which interact to form a web of complex yet intriguing relationships.  Although the physical is somewhat preconceived through design, it is not static, existing both in time and in relation to people. Design could be considered as an idea or set of characteristics animated through human use, producing wear over time.  It is experienced subjectively, with the user acting as protagonist within the space, whose narrative becomes intertwined with that of their environment and others occupying it.

The above concept established the direction for the design project, Hanging Matters – a full-scale installation included in an annual design festival in a North American city.  A landmark historical hotel in this city invites proposals from designers and artists to transform rooms and spaces throughout the hotel as part of the festival events.  This design team submitted a successful proposal and was given a second floor hallway of the hotel to transform, which was located adjacent to the event’s annual party space.  Historically, the event receives up to a thousand visitors through the hotel as one of multiple sites around the city that are engaged in the festival.  Knowing the history of the number of visitors, along with the hotel’s ‘opening night’, the design team worked within these parameters to inform our design solution. 

The opening party meant that the hallway could be filled with little room for people to move because of the number of viewers.  To consider an installation that people engaged at ground level would only be an obstacle, and instead, we looked upward to the ceiling as the site.  Upon completion of our site analysis, it was important that the installation accomplish the following tasks: draw the viewers gaze upward, contribute to a celebratory atmosphere, and engage viewers so that they become participants.  As a result, the design of the installation was built upon the intent to register participant use in space over time. 

The installation intended to capture people’s attention through the creation of a dynamic and layered ceiling plane using light, color and cone shaped piñatas as the ceiling fabric, compelling people to dwell within this in-between space. Playful yet provocative, the abstracted piñatas revealed their contents upon release, creating a moment of wonder and surprise. Through three orchestrated timings, participants were invited to pull a tag at the end of a ribbon on each cone to release party favors while simultaneously transforming the ceiling.  Over the course of an evening, the piñata cones were transformed into a second design as the lower portion of the cone dropped away.

We sought to have this work explore the dialogue between people and physical space. It was not only important to design with the intent of materializing expression of light and color, but first and foremost, it was integral for the project to connect with people.  Through the change of ceiling units, the physical space mirrored the activity below, registering time and becoming a catalogued topography of party happenings.

The submitter of this project was one member of a four-member team.  The team members were divided into two roles – the submitter of this project is an experienced designer with knowledge of full-scale installations, and the additional three team members were undertaking a significant installation project of this scope as a new endeavor in their careers.


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