Shroom

Outside lighting and furniture collection
Linen, steel, paint, LED, composites
2012

This case is the result of a passionating process that started in Dale i Sunnfjord in Norway. To tackle societal challenges, some wise invited experts met and defined annual themes to be followed. After following for one year "Longer Participation", we had gathered knowledges, insights, new networks, experiences. All connected in a natural way to create Shroom, a collection of lighting devices, that reacts to its surroundings and offers the most empathic light possible, where and when needed. This is its story.

Longer participation

The population is aging and have longer active lives through improved health. From a certain age, humans can be left outside the community as well as from an economic standpoint. In this program, we ask: “How can we make the older generation participate longer in the community?”. In order to give an answer to this, we developed the program: “Participate longer”. Each person which has a “normal functioning” mind, also has a creative soul. This means that anyone is able to influence the society, assuming that they have the technical aides and the competence to use these tools to materialise their ideas. Elder citizens do not always have these aides nor the skills to use them, due to this they are often ignored during a creative process. Even more the main part of the senior would be in touch with technology (a survey show that between September 2008 and March 2009 the 55-65 year old users grew more than 550%). By ignoring them, we create a deeper generational gaps and lose opportunities to develop better systems and profit from of their knowledge and life experiences.

The elder population is beginning to be bigger than the present working generation. After a life of working, and without experience of using modern communication tools, motivated elders can get isolated. Valuable knowledge is lost, where as it could be useful for the society.

Sensing Dale

A space is not a thing rather a set of relations between things
(Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space 1974).

The workshop was inspired by the psycho geographic method, developed by the organisation the Situationist International, emerging from a fusion of several artistic groups. Being active from 1957 to 1972, the organisation stated that it was the people using the city that created the city. Everyday life became their centre of attention, wanting to understand how people gave meaning to the city. The Situationists explored the potentials not visible in the material structures of the city by studying the emotional and behavioural effects of the geographical layout. The workshop is also inspired by the book Soft City by Jonathan Raban. Here, Raban states that our individual town is constructed by personal experiences and memories – that is, my town is different from yours! It’s the associations and relations to places that create security and identity in town – more than physical street lights and signs. From this perspective the city or town can be seen as a stage, a unique and private reality constructed by personal trajectories and narratives. If we want to get to know a town and its potential, we have to dig into the social texture of this particular town. Participation is taking part in the construction of reality. For two days a group of Dale citizens were invited to reconstruct or co-construct their individual townscapes. They contributed to mappings of Dale that were founded in personal lives and experiences instead of functions, structures and institutions. There is not only one version of Dale but hundreds of versions!

Exploring and including the many individual versions of the town creates a more valid and ‘thick’ image of Dale, how the town works and what it means to its citizens, its creators – informing and qualifying town planning and designing products. Relational aesthetics is an art form where the social or relational exchange is the primary centre of attention. The psycho geographic workshop in Dale is to be understood in these terms; the goal of the workshop was to collect and weave together the elders’ relations to the town. The workshop presented an alternative understanding of the experienced qualities of Dale. The workshop can be seen as a user orientated exploration of the subjective mind scape of the elderly citizens, a bottom-up approach to understanding town life. The workshop underlines the importance of subjective registrations, and how these can be carried out and later used in different ways. The mapping method takes point of departure in people’s usage and comprehension of the town, rather than the physical look of it. By inviting the elders to describe their town and living environment in different terms and alternative aspects, the ‘soft’ version of Dale turns up. By visualising and physically mapping meanings, memories and sensory experiences we got an insight into the plastic nature of Dale exposing the potential for developing living spaces that matter - closely related to the participants and people living in this place. The shift between individual, pair and group tasks, between thinking, sharing, discussing, agreeing, walking and sensing was all supporting active participation, strengthening the social texture of the town.

What if the subjective side of climatic qualities were taken into account while designing and planning the infrastructure of the town? What if more personal stories were collected and where put on signs or audio stations all over town? Layers of meaning would become visible; a physical expression of the invisible social relations Dale is made of. The informal soft side of town would be tangible and laid open inviting identification and ownership. Would it create a more human town?

Emotional mapping

In order to grasp the qualitative experience of town living a group of elders is asked to walk through town registering and identifying emotionally charged areas. A photographer from Transplant is registering every step with her camera. The result of the day is a greater awareness of all the personal stories connected to every corner of Dale, making visible that a place can have many different meanings attached to it. That is, a place is a space woven by traces of individual interaction. The numbered stickers being attached to the place is communicating to other by-passers that this is a special place, a place of importance. The places and stories are put on a blog for others to comment.

Identifying climatic qualities

Heat, coldness, dryness, wetness/humidity, light, darkness, wind and calmness are all climatic qualities of the human environment. Our psychological perception is influenced by subjective factors like memory, experience, preference etc. making the perception of places a highly individual matter. In this workshop we want to explore which climatic qualities are being experienced in Dale and we want to create personal visualisations of specific climatic qualities by single use cameras. The result of the day is situated and individual observations making a sketch like description of which climatic qualities are being experienced in Dale. This information is put on the blog as well as samples of the individual visualisations of specific qualities. The aim is to raise reflections and further social exchange. It is a qualitative perspective which can be developed further by including more people and more places. As an example it is interesting to reflect upon whether a group of women would experience the same qualities as the men did, that is - whether a gender difference exist in perceiving and evaluating climatic qualities.

Transferring longer

The mission is to involve seniors in the local development.
We worked on a creative project about the town Dale i Sunnfjord and closed municipalities in Norway as an environmental case study. Together with the municipality and elders, we took part to the creative process to empathise physical exchange zones where elders contribute to the collectivity. In case of new urban spaces, the municipality have been the partner to apply new scenarios conclusions into reality. During this process, Olav Hovland, Norwegian architect, was the consultant for us, as he was already involved in former town development projects and research programs. The results of the urban development include emotional and climatic qualities of the town, as well as aspects of citizen movements. These results are included in a public lighting design for the town and in a structural perspective for a future development. Prototypes of the public lighting have been produced and presented to the public during the 2010 design Biennial of Saint Etienne in France and in Norway.

Knowledge transfer

The mission is to increase knowledge transfers between generations. We explored and studied the different ways to reintroduce the seniors‘ knowledge and the competences. Together with the participating elders, the studio linked the knowledge with contemporary design and material aspects. Resulting out of the knowledge transfer, prototypes have been realised and tuned with experts with urban lighting, sustainable and ecological friendly materials.

Rural lightings

Shroom is an outdoor light fixture and furniture series with an unique detection system that reacts to movement and ambient light. “The idea behind the Shroom came from working with habitants in a Norwegian village and their memories related to physical places. We wanted to create a lighting adapted to the life and needs in Nordic cities, close to nature and with long dark nights during the winter. The amazing light of stars and aurora borealis (Nordic lights) are affected by public lighting, therefore it made sense to make light fixtures that are fully lit only when needed, say the designers.” The light dims to a 10 per cent light strength, if nobody is in its proximity and when someone passes by, the Shroom smoothly brightens to full luminosity, lighting up the path. This is both energy-saving and avoiding unnecessary light pollution. Made from linen fibres, a natural fibre bio-composite material, the light fixture series include a Giant street light, a Just bollard, a Big and Little seats, the result is a small forest of magic Shrooms.

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