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The current exhibitions in London for this year’s London Design Festival have generated a lot of interest, but perhaps not as much as the Textile Field by french designers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. These “fields” are essentially slanted slabs in different shades of green and blue.
Its very eye catching and appealing. Not one person who walks into that gallery can resist the urge to sit a while, despite the “unEnglishness” of it all. So what is the draw? The view above when you sit down? Unfortunately not. Your natural instinct is to lie down and look up.
The hall is large and with such beautiful surroundings, it seems to make sense that this ceiling would be stimulating to look at as well. But any visitors that may give in to curiosity, lay down, and look expectantly upwards will be met with a sight to make your eyes sore. All that are installed on the ceiling are bright glaring spot lights.
This can be a huge let down. However, this lack of view did not stop people from sitting down for quite a length of time. One of the most striking things about this exhibit is how people lay on this “grass”. The majority lay with their legs hanging over the edge, with their head going downwards.
Surely this is the most uncomfortable position, so some people’s solution to this problem was to do exercises; most popular was the bicycle move with your feet above your head. Many others lay and talked to those that were next to them. The sheer size of the exhibition–over 240 square meters–makes you feel small, childlike even.
In synthetic reality our inhibitions somehow end up getting left behind the moment we remove our shoes. There was therefore rather an interesting response to the exhibition, but a very positive one. People seemed to feel a great deal of freedom with regards to how to interact with the display. All ages showed signs of enjoying simply taking a moment and sitting. Or lying.
Or even doing exercises. And perhaps this is its genius: that gets us to stop and just be. In the chaotic, often stressful city of London it is rare to find a place to relax and smell the roses, however fake they may be. Imagine taking this idea and duplicating it, in various sizes, all across the city. Creating spaces for people to go and read or chat or sleep.
A small oasis in the midst of our busy lives. This set-up is one that would be probably welcomed by people of all ages, especially in a city environment it is often not practical to go and find a real field to sit in. These could be the fields of the future. Designed for our comfort, fields for the material age.
However, let us remember that sitting in a museum, beautiful as it may be, is no substitute for nature. While our interaction and experience with these textile blocks may be positive, hopefully people would never wish to exchange the joys of the outdoors for a well designed mock-up.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/smallritual/