Choi+Shine Architects in Singapore recently constructed an installation of crocheted sea urchins which were part of the iLight Marina Bay festival and appeared to float over the water and quaysides of the bay and were designed so that visitors could enter a lacy domain with its gentle filtering of the outside world. I discovered these urchins as part of earlier research during this course and have come back to them during the development of my shell-like structure during Exercise 4.1 of Assignment 4.
Please note all photographs are posted with the kind and direct permission of Choi+Shine Architects.
Each urchin was designed to reflect the light of the sun during the day and were illuminated at night giving the appearance of rising out of the water – this is one art installation I can honestly say that I would seriously have loved to see in person.
This series of crocheted urchins took 50 people from all over the world over 2 1/2 months and were constructed of 17000 metres of double braided polyester chord in 20 different sections. After each section was completed they were attached to metal frames before being hoisted into position with the resulting creations each weighing 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and with a height of 17 metres (56 feet). The urchins are held in place in their location using strong Dyneema cables attached to steel trusses with the cables being so thin they can hardly be seen during the day.
It is difficult to explain what I really like about these urchins because they almost feel ethereal or spiritual or other worldly and perhaps that is it for me …. there is an element of fantasy and escapism. The lace nature and design of the urchins was chosen to reflect the diverse nature of the people who inhabit Singapore as it weaves those differing cultures together whilst also giving the sense of celebration which lace often depicts in its use in celebratory clothing. The lace patterns also came to their fore as they created a new variety of patterns across the water, sky and urban structures but at the same the lace creates a sense of familiarity and memory due to is usual use as part of small scale private textile articles – this use of the lace has created multiple effects from those reflections to the memory to the simple fact it tells of a narrative or a poem of the lives of those within the city and this is definitely something to think about with how I choose my fabrics or yarns and what I want each to say or to represent.
The design development alone on this project took around 2 1/2 months with the lace being created from patterns from Gilmond’s Needlepoint Lace which was published in 1890 and altered by Jin Choi so that the patterns could be created as crocheted lace.
I am intrigued from an artistic point of view how each were made and sincerely wish there was a smaller pattern available and would love to be able to see the original patterns in order to attempt to recreate some element in the future – I am thinking lampshade wire frames or making my own simple wire frame.
I like the fact that each is illuminated at night by multiple spot lights and this could simply be recreated with small LED lights so this gives me something to think about further.
The forms are instantly recognisable as sea urchins but the colour palette kept white which for me is reminiscent of the bleaching of coral reefs so perhaps there is a hidden message too about the damage being done to our oceans but mankind. Further research informs me that the theme of the iLight festival was one of Biomimicry and Sustainability so my feeling of their being a hidden message is correct – and clearly the narrative comes through as was intended.
The architects were inspired by the fact that sea urchin shells are light in weight but also open and delicate with heavily textured shells which have a repetitive mathematical pattern …. these patterns create a feeling of harmony and rhythm that I have always loved. The architect’s website informs me of how there are contrasts between nature and the urban man-made environment which in essence is a contrast between the feminine sea urchin shells which I find are almost symbols of fertility and abundance too and the masculine nature of the concrete buildings and skyscrapers of Singapore – the contrasts are due to the soft forms and repetitive patterns of the crocheted forms with the light reflecting and creating the above mentioned visual filter against the harsh and unforgiving urban surroundings.
I am finding myself drawn to high contrasts in art or textiles – the harmony or rhythms being interrupted by the location chosen for the piece but the location not disrupting the actual rhythm or energy of the materials or textures used …. the interruption of the context in which the work is seen creating a new energy that enhances the actual piece and enhances the impression or narrative that I want to create. I am increasingly interested in soft dynamics so that the changes created by changing location are not harshly or forcefully done but are almost imperceptible until the viewer suddenly realises that something has in fact changed.
I feel a sense of change coming in how I am considering my work and how I am research or what I am being drawn to – there is a feeling of wanting to work with the aforementioned contrasts but in a soft rhythmic way with still the sense of harmony but that soft dynamism so that as a piece of work changes location or context it gently develops and changes at times almost imperceptibly. These crocheted urchins change how they are viewed in the sunlight to how they are perceived at night and that is intriguing – I need to think about light as part of my work and try placing samples in differing lights or times of the day as well as the location.
Overall these crocheted sea urchins may have really given me food for thought as to how I want to create work or how I want to consider my yarns or fabrics and what part they play in the piece I want to create. What is almost ironic is that one of the art installations that has fascinated me the most was done by a firm of architects – I used to work for architects and town planners and the justaposition of the lacy structures against the hard concrete almost feels like the contrast between that of my softer textile studies against the work and expertise in concrete of my late grandfather Leonard John Murdock.
Choi+Shine Architects. (date unknown). Urchins Concept [online]. [Date accessed: July 2017]. Available from: http://www.choishine.com/UrchinsConcept.html
Mok, K. 31 May 2017. Giant crocheted installations of urchins floats above city marina [online]. [Date accessed July 2017]. Available from: https://www.treehugger.com/culture/urchins-crocheted-installation-choi-shine-architects.html