Look, ask, try, learn – indoor reactive plant matter
To investigate how our design could exist in the actual world we visited the videography office for Herberger in PEBE West on campus, because it represents a good variety of environments we’re targeting for our installations: Office lobby, public space, indoor, mixed purpose. The building is an old gym that has been repurposed for a variety of classes, sports, and office spaces, so traffic in the lobby/entrance area is varied.
We spoke to the employees and asked about the aesthetic experience of the building as well as the physical quality of the environment, especially the air and temperature.
They described their general displeasure with how unclean, outdated, and ugly the gym itself was (all true) and expressed great interest in the aesthetic improvement the hypothetical installation of our design would bring. A redesign is clearly in order, and one that relates directly to the health of the space would be particularly meaningful. Biologically, we couldn’t test it the way hotel inspectors would, but we can only assume there is some serious bacteria present; an actual test of present substances would be needed to determine the exact needs of the space in terms of what toxins need to be fought by our plant materials (and thus determining which plants would be selected for this particular installation)
Employees responded equally positively to the health aspects of our proposal, they spoke about the quality of air feeling drab and not fresh, needing to step out for a walk every so often. They also experience bugs, which may be a larger facilities problem, but is something our proposal could hypothetically affect also. Their questions about weather our plants would attract more or different insects made us evaluate that aspect of it that we hadn’t thought about before.
During this process of exploring the space and doing interviews, our activities mirrored that of the average person in the building: walking from room to room and spending a lot of time sitting. One thing we noticed over time was the quality of air, like they said, and the light, being a cold artificial fluorescent throughout. It was also rather warm in the rooms, where several people were.
Reactive plants in this space, if we were to postulate a sort of home-makeover-show type installation, would seriously improve the health and aesthetic. Plants or lichen that specifically filter air toxins, are anti-insect, and require little light, would be our selection for here specifically. Going through this exercise though has really brought to the surface how site specific our proposal really is, we originally thought of this as a general idea, but the needs of each potential space are different in more extreme ways than anticipated. This aspect is something we will definitely spend more time focusing on in our final proposal.