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Mirror Box 

By: Dr. Hussain Dashti

Department of Architecture 

Kuwait University 

         

A mobile ephemeral light weight structure swiftly landing via crane at a public space overnight. An architecture or art installation often requires being more novel and eye-catching; being a mini-spectacle or event in itself, the more ephemeral or transient the better. Its three-sided mirror-like glass are often disguised and camouflaged in nature by context high quality reflections. Conceived from other angels, it creates a picture-in-picture of different views reflecting virtual images from nearby locations and directions acting as a chameleon instantly changing with time and movement. Other times it is comoflages as if it is not there. Unprecedented images are collected and cognitively processed creating mind stimulating experiences involving senses not only for humans but birds and animals as well.    

 

A single nontransparent wall cladded with upcycled solid Beech Danish wood, originally used as a basketball court flooring from a demolished local school still carrying marking of the basketball court. This upsycled wood was used for the interior flooring as well as for the wall exterior cladding.  Art pattern is CNC carved on the solid wood cladding as an abstractions of the local sea snail trails in the sea sand close by. The art pattern was created using continuous and intersecting different width unique lines running in all directions. These wood engraved lines manafest society’s ingredient units and its complex greater relational whole (Gestalt) + (Aristotle). The essence of the pattern was to visualize the engraved pattern from different distances as one moves around the deeply engraved wood creating superior views. These very views dynamically change as one views them from different angels and different vanishing points. Further, the golden tone of wood tends to change as the sun moves throughout the day changing hues and shadow patterns of the engraving. 

Zooming in, each line segment in the engraving represents an event in someone’s life. In scientific theory, elementalism, found by Wilhelm Wundt, is a phenomenon by reducing a complex problem to simple, elemental units. The belief that such a procedure is appropriate to a science dealing with psychological phenomena, which are explained by reducing it to simple elements, such as basic sensations or elementary reflexes. Gestalt Psychology, on the hand, claims that it is improper to perceive life complexity through a reductionist elemental approach. In order to comprehend the essence of life, one is suppose to step back from the wooden pattern in order to visualize the infinite relational lines representing a wholistic view of life as they ungulate and intersect at some designated positions. This wholistic view may generate more visible relational attributes where  1+1 may equal 3 and not 2.  Gestalt psychologists emphasize that organisms perceive entire patterns or configurations, not merely individual components. Therefore, the view is sometimes summarized using the adage,  

 

“The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts.”  

Gestalt psychology founded on works by Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka.  

 

 

Finally, the wooden door frame was created using upcycled Teak wood salvaged from a local Kuwaiti ship scrap yard. In addition, salvaged upcycled shipyard freight packaging wood was used to create the two door steps.     

 

The mirror box is an architectural and artistic pavilion acting as an intervention testing environmental, social, political, and moral local values in Kuwait. During the day, a complete reflection is captured from the exterior luring and seducing passerbys to take a glimpse and eventually stop to either take a glimpse at themselves through the mirrors and gradually taking selfies, without turning their backs on the captured scene. The grand mirror-like glass placed in a public domain surrounded by nature creates a theatrical background unprecedented to the public. No human can truly visualize themselves in nature. This large dosage of virtual mirror reflections placed within reality (picture in picture); creates an unprecedented personal outdoor view captured in nature, hence making it a convivial experience and marks a smile on their faces. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite of this mirror like reflection, inside-out visibility is super bright and clear during the daytime. A person sitting inside gains a level of control, vanity, and empowerment perhaps due to surveillance of nature and humans. “The fish now are outside the tank”. This however, is completely reversed at nighttime; where the box turns into a “fishbowl” allowing passersby to look inside and not the other way around. This privacy/surveillance dichotomy triggers numerous behavioral, moral, legal, political attributes and cognitive perceptions.  

 

From the inside during the day, physical boundaries tend to perceptually dissolve sub-continuously and cognitively merging the outdoors with the indoor spaces. At night, boundaries appear and vanish with a flip of a light switch visualized from the inside or out. Reflections of the artificial light are observed repeating infinitely on the glass from the inside. An atmosphere of presence is created as the brain momentarily struggles figuring out what is inside and what is out while simultaneously thinking about the two locations respectively. One loses track of time when sitting both inside or outside as stillness of nature and movement interplay. Some visitors started singing while standing outside staring at themselves in the mirrors for a long time in an attempt to “discover and explore”. One visitor spent 90 minutes pondering and taking videos of himself as reflected during the day time from the outside. Others were dancing, especially children, as a sigh of pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As part of sense stimulation and creation of space presence, videos and images were displayed on the solid wall from the inside. With interior artificial lighting at night, people passing by in the park can visualize the displayed videos. However, the seen is quite split between actual indoor visibility and outdoor reflections of trees displayed as a result of ambient dim lighting in the park. It creates a magical ambiance raising the level of curiosity as some of the trees are reflected to look like they are located inside the mirror box.  

 

The mirror box is an architectural and artistic installation acting as an intervention, testing environmental, social, behavioral, political (Panopticon effect), and moral local values. Visitor are provided a chance to “Think out-of-the-box inside-the-box.” The project is deliberately intended to be ephemeral, taking off (disappearing) soon and landing again at another location in order to intervene with another public space adding another Avant-guard ideas and visions, leaving the location with nostalgic memories of the structure, the place, and people’s selfies around it.  

 

For architecture, the project is a small-scale temporary structure that offers essential opportunities for research and experimentation (Lab) – for testing and prototyping, done in this case, to demand our momentary attention. It provides a “Naturalistic Darwinian” methodological observation where human behavior is observed, from inside or outside, while researchers are emersed in the events. Such a project could be a platform for change, creating new hybrid places of exchange with affirmative temporal architectural qualities.  

 

 

This project provides students, visitors with an unmatched immersion into the real world, empowering them to recognize that they too can be the new designer makers. I believe in the value of giving students and society at large the opportunity to be involved in the whole design-and-build process, and in encouraging them not to wait to be hired, but to actively seek out opportunities to build as new entrepreneurs. 

 

The structure can be used for multiple functions including entrepreneurial spaces such as a caffe, private yoga studios, offices, nature observatory, city information booth, and many others, as per one’s creative use. Physical attendance, local TV coverage, and social media coverage have reflected a huge publicity for the project. Park users have generated a signing book and asking to keep the project permanently. However, the installation is “designed to disappear.” God knows what memories it will leave behind.  

 

 

 

Hosted by  

Amiri Diwan at Shaheed Park venue

 

 

Thank you Amiri Diwan for hosting the project and continuously supporting Kuwait University students and society.  

 

 

 

 

Sponsored by

 

Dasco (Palinum Sponsor) 

Sadeer (Gold Sponsor) 

Gulf Consult (Silver Sponsor) 

Riham (Silver Sponsor)