Our “Forest of Plinths” realisation.
An exciting opportunity to revamp an old concrete patch.
In June, before finishing the academic year, I, Toni and Alice teamed-up to put forward a proposal for a live brief competition. The brief was set-up by the Cardiff School of Education as they wanted to transform an unused concrete patch on their Cyncoed Campus.
The concrete patch is located nearby a forest that is used for outdoor learning activities with the CSE students and children from local primary schools. They wanted to utilise the previously unused space as play and storage area for the kids and their finds and creations from the forest, as well as seminar space for the university students.
After few visit to the concrete patch as well as the forest area, we felt strongly about bringing certain elements and feelings from the forest to the exposed concrete patch.
The two locations couldn’t be more different, with uncovered and exposed area with carpark, walkways and stairs all around, and the covered, enclosed and safe space protected by the trees.
We particularly liked the few log circles in the forest, and a small bridge, leaning over a tiny stream. They represented a common theme for us, about collaboration, enclosure and bridging over ideas and people.
We wanted to bring over these themes we found in the forest, onto the empty patch.
The hard work creating the proposal haven’t actually prepared us for the actual realisation, after our idea won.
Tight time limitations, as well as money, materials and physics meant our plans had significantly changed, and we had to respond to problems swiftly.
Biggest changes happened when we had to draw the design in Illustrator for the CNC for cutting. Realistically it had to fit onto the number of plywood sheets we had budget for – this reduced the number of the plinths from 25 to 13, and scaled the area they take up on the tiles by half. Structural and locking mechanisms had to be designed.
After hard thinking, with the essential help of Olivia, Morgan expertly drew the design in Rhino and transferred to Illustrator, ready for CNC cutting.
Lengthly sanding, glueing, sanding again for safety precautions and then painting and varnishing for number of coats.
While living with the plinths for few good days, if not weeks, we discovered number of advantages:
1. They are actually very comfortable to sit on.
2. They are rather spacious, so you can hide many things in them.
3. The lid is a perfect shield.
4. The locking stick is a perfect sword.
5. Upside down they look like castles.
6. They are a cool, but rather heavy helmets.
We produced number of ceramic tiles to lay over 2 of the plinth tops.
Scanned children’s drawings, which were then processed in Illustrator, were laser etched onto number of them.
However, due to our lack of experience in surface decoration with oxide washes, the final result after firing them to 1240C for weather proofing wasn’t satisfactory enough for us to put them onto the plinths.
We would really like to place some ceramics onto the plinths, or into the space. Making the tiles with the kids would have better effect and be more fun, as the laser etched patterns will never be visible clearly enough.
Painting the floor tiles itself, was a good compromise to the lesser amount of plinths filling the empty space.
We collaborated with two great 3rd year BA Illustration students, filling number of the tiles with deliciously bright colours and cute insect (and a snake) designs.
This was such an enriching collaboration between different students and staff from CSAD and CSE, Cyncoed Campus and Llandaff Campus. Between wood and clay, concrete and paint, machine and hand, nature and man.
Being part of a close group of people and working on a live project, from abstract proposal to real realisation was tremendously helpful in learning how a real project comes alive.
From networking, sharing ideas and working together; to use of software and hardware to produce something, but also to overcome number of arising problems.
Working on this project, I definitely acquired at least some confidence in using wood, but also in manipulation of other materials, to incorporate into my ceramic practice and BA course. In my new brief for Level 5, I now want to incorporate wood, furniture and design processes, and let them enrich my ceramic practice. I also acquired a sense that I should really treat every brief as live, more direct and outcome focused brief, especially coming closer to my 3rd year. Or at least search for optional live briefs, as exploration and experimentation is still important, but finalising something is rather rewarding.