Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Plea to the Powers That Be in GR: Make the Winner of 54Jeff a Reality

Alright: So I wrote about the 54Jeff competition last week and I can't help but go into it further now that I've seen the winners. I accidentally attended what I think was the reception the other night and I was stunned to get a glimpse at the visions people had for the space. Seriously, human beings are some creative son-of-a-guns when they want to be and what I saw was some astonishing stuff. Let's look at the top three entrants and you'll understand exactly what I mean.

Grand Rapids Automaton by Peter Dumbadze | Courtesy of 54Jeff
In third place, we have the Grand Rapids Automaton. Sticking with the museum concept, Peter Dumbadze from the University of Michigan had the idea of putting the archives to use in a really intricate way. Basically, a new section would be built on top of the current building, adding two floors to the museum according to the diagram. This would house the entirety of the archives and double the facility's height. In addition to this addition (heh), there would be a number of elevator shafts installed--13 to be exact--each of which is directly connected to a gallery in the museum area. Museum goers could then enter the archives area--the Automaton--and send artifacts and pieces into the museum below. With or without rhyme or reason, patrons could create a brand new museum experience every time. In my opinion, this was the most fascinating idea for the space because it brought an oddly democratic feeling to the museum concept, allowing the patrons to choose what they and others see. And by allowing things to become caddywompus--because let's face it, it's definitely going to get sloppy--it seems like there is a lot being left to chance. Dumbadze noted that the inevitable occurrence of ridiculous combinations could inspire insights and conversations that would not have otherwise happened, particularly those regarding intercultural interactions. Let's be honest: I'm probably biased toward this idea because of my degree in anthropology.

Light Beams by Doonam Back, Yann Caclin, and Hugo Pace | Courtesy of 54Jeff
In second place, we have Light Beams. Dreamt up by two architects and an intern, this French submission is a very modern redesign of the space. The beauty in it resides in its reliance on the old--the ceiling is cut like the ribs of the famous whale skeleton that used to hang in the facility, the same one that hangs in the new Grand Rapids Public Museum. With a rooftop garden, an inner amphitheater, and a genius reallocation of space with minimal addition to the facility's exterior, I have to say I was impressed. Very much so. I can imagine spending quite a bit of time at a place like this, especially if it became a well-respected venue for entertainment and community events.

Reforestation by Danielle Berwick | Courtesy of 54Jeff
First place was insanely impressive, though. Long story short, the public museum would become something I've never seen before: a pseudo-museum for tree trunks. The project, called Reforestation, was designed by Danielle Berwick from Vancouver, Canada, and I'm not quite sure that words could do it justice. Half indoor green space, half sustainable practices, half visual orgasm, the space would become one-of-a-kind. Don't worry, I know that I listed three halves; I'm just flabbergasted and this project deserves some praise beyond what I can provide within the confines of normality. Tree trunks on tree trunks on tree trunks, all hanging from the ceiling--though dead, the trunks cling to life by reclaiming the position they once held on a plot of land that is ancestral to them: before the great Chop of the Lumberjack, trees used to be everywhere. Honestly, I've never heard nor dreamt of anything like this and what Berwick has created, even if it's only a plan, is something out of this world. I want to see this happen. Desperately. It would add yet another thing to Grand Rapids that no other city has, yet another thing for us to be proud of as citizens of this wonderful town.