Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, 2018
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The meta-concept is to create an immersive experience around recycling as a process. The circular repurposing of something functional and once-useful into something tangible and collectively beautiful. A highly visible and interactive entity that grows over time through a collaborative effort from visitors and machines.
This is more than just the idea of using recycled materials and renewable energy, this uses the very system of recycling plastics as the centerpiece, exposing the workings and the simplicity. The machinery is not hidden away in factories and plants, but instead featured and brought to the stage. We want people to see the tangible output of their personal effort - 1 plastic bottle equals 1 glowing drop - and together we will build a very visible, collaborative display of this.
The immersive experience is bounded by a framework inside which sit the recycling machines, themselves built from repurposed and recycled materials. These machines will run throughout the design festival to create materials that will be used to further grow the entity itself. Each visitor that brings a plastic bottle will feed the machines, and will receive a small plastic drop formed on the spot from the repurposed raw material. The visitor then becomes the artist, deciding where to place the drop on the framework as an individual piece of the collective expression. The visitor/artist could also decide to not contribute to the installation, and this is also a valid reaction to the process, however we believe the connected nature of the experience will encourage a community response.
For the physical shape of the installation, we began by revisiting the history of the Ultimo powerhouse. We want to create a visual echo that referenced the original purpose of the building while also being poetic and playful. The 'chimney' structures of the installation provide shelter for the experience within, and they also provide an iconic symbol juxtaposing the 'clean' nature of the plastic repurposing factory against the coal- and oil-fired turbines of the original station.
We took thematic inspiration from many places, but one of the most powerful triggers was the non-profit community called Precious Plastics, started by a Dutch industrial designer Dave Hakkens with an open source approach to building the machines and a network of volunteers. We will make variations on these machines and create an immersive and interactive experience for everyone while championing the beauty of the process itself.
By adding phosphorescent material to the recycled plastic drops, we can collectively create a curtain of light along the entity. This is a nod to the Australasian glow-worm, and the caves where they make their beautiful, illuminated strand snares to capture their prey. In this case the glowing strands of plastic drops are used to capture the attention of the public, enthralling and inspiring with the simple joy of the process.
Following the MAAS Sydney Design Festival, the repurposing ethos of the concept will continue. The recycling machines and the drops can be exhibited in the museum, while the installation framework can become a mobile plastic recycling workshop and can be moved to appropriate places in Sydney.
Project: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney
Program: Transform the Powerhouse Museum's forecourt into an immersive, multi-functional and unforgettable environment for our audiences.
Client: MAAS Architecture Commission Sydney
Key Team Members: Marco de Piaggi, Weronika Wawrzyniak, Nick Mueller