RESEARCH // SPECULATE
Our studio has an ongoing interest in new design tools that allow us to explore new forms of storytelling through virtual and augmented reality in digital space. In recent work we are exploring new tools for the design of landscape and place in conjunction with an artist that has had a strong influence on our work, Wassily Kandinsky. We drawn influence of Kandinsky’s theoretical work “Point and Line to Plane” published in 1926. In the early 20th century, there emerged a transformation in the way certain artists related to the concept of landscape. They started depicting the world within a two-dimensional, intellectual framework, as in the abstract paintings of artists like Kandinsky and Klee, Mondrian and Albers, El Lissitzky and Malevich. The avant-garde of the time paved the way to understand the inextricable relationship between interior and exterior, between nature and the manmade, and between artefact and landscape. Kandinsky’s compositions were based on the triad of point, line and surface − the three conceptual, physical and vectorial structures or forces that trigger action.
We have drawn upon this theoretical framework and and have attempted to apply it to three dimensional space using point cloud data to explore composition, landscape and thresholds of place with a digital space, point, cloud and island. It raises questions about limits and thresholds we encounter while travelling through place and time. Similarly to Kandinsky’s exploration of the interior and exterior, we have been using the manipulation of time, form and scale can delineate boundaries and thresholds between space and the idea of physical place. We have been using point cloud data from 3D Lidar scanners, photogrammetry and animation software to explore these themes. Using new compositions of point cloud data gathered from real spaces, distance and scale can be manipulated, with this, new paths and journeys can be explored at different speeds through augmented reality animations.
These techniques have been widely used to create representations and visualisations of virtual worlds, prominently in the fields of gaming and cinema. However, how can this manipulation of time, scale and place be used as design tools? In a similar vein how does an artist coming out of a tradition of representational painting develop a new language to depict a new subjective journey? Kandinsky’s work is a complex balance of figuration and abstraction, breaking with the artistic customs of the time to engage with new visual playing fields. Impressionistic ability to depict sentiments rather than objects, Kandinsky’s interest in abstraction comes from his belief that the task of the painter is to convey his own inner world, rather than imitate the natural world. It is a conscious planning of composition and transcendence of presentation expressed by development of an abstract image.
The outcome of our exploration is dual angled animation, of a directed journey through this manufactured landscape. Most importantly the journey is one of a large number of paths taken through this designed landscape. The point cloud data was scanned from various sites in Kielder forest in collaboration with ScanLab, the short film is entirely formed from point cloud information gathered from different locations. With this, new landscapes are fabricated, telling the story of a singular, subjective journey. In this new reality we find key elements that make up a synthetic collective memory of the wider area of Kielder Water; old roads which have been swallowed by the man-made lake, landmark trees merging with the mathematical grid of the plantation and the banks of Kielder Water are all repositioned. On the acoustic level, actual recordings where documented around each site to unveil the thresholds between the cluster of landscape spaces and augment a sensory experience of this new place.
001 Screen shot from Point Cloud Island Animation
The film explores the materiality, rhythm, atmosphere and personal perception of the surround area both visually and acoustically. The result is the design of a point cloud island that draws more similarities with the memory of place than the physical landscape visited. Memories are products of our body’s experience of physical space. The philosopher Edward S. Casey defines a “place”—as distinct from a “site”—as a physical location where memories can be contained and preserved. An empty lot, for example, would be considered a site—a generic, boundless locale which “possesses no points of attachment onto which to hang our memories, much less retrieve them.” By contrast, a place is “full of protuberant features and forceful vectors—and distinct externally from other places…We observe this when an indifferent building lot, easily confused with other empty lots, is transformed into a memorable place by the erection of a distinctive house upon it.”
002 Plan of Point Cloud Island
003 Plat-Profond, 1930 by Wassily Kandinsky
004 Composition X, 1939 by Wassily Kandinsky
005 Site images of scanning process