In a limited time of site survey, architect collects information by observation, notes and data recording, sketching, and photograph and video taking. Returning to office, information were transferred into reports, diagrams and maquettes. Together with other more detailed information like photos, maquette, serving as the most integrated representation of the site, assists architect to grasp the site entirely. More often than not, maquette is physically separated from the site it represents in this working process.
If we put the maquette into the site it represents, audience will be “inside” the site and “outside” the maquette (a scaled site) simultaneously. We termed the approach “in-site modeling” and the maquette “in-site maquette”. With visual connection, information on the site and its model could be caught, connected and compared part by part, over and over. Different from professional using of maquette, here the observer’s conscious is not only put on zooming in and out the maquette’s but extending to bridging parts of the maquette with parts of the reality.
Rather than assisting recognition, “in-site maquette” is playable. In reality, most of people may become the user of a place ahead of becoming its audience. They could be passengers dropping by or dog-walkers coming every day. “Playing” is expected to encourage their imagination of something out of routine, like “what else can I do here?”, “with whom?”, “what is in the others’ mind?” etc., etc. All these can be directly performed on maquette, leading to further idea exchange.
Therefore, “rooming a space” in this sense introduces a process of transfering a professional context (space) into a daily level one (room). In believing properly handled cooperation yields better outcome, “in-site modelling” is expected to bridge designer, architects, and non-designer, passengers, dog-walkers and whoever, ensuring a more effective communication for creating a better future together.
2. Environmental setting
1) The environment perceived as one environment but not several environments normally has perceivable borders: architecture facade, linear trees, a river, threshold in-between different spaces and so on.
2) A shelter with a size like a normal double bedroom.
3) Entering the environment makes people participants.
4) A model represents the environment in 1:50. Apart from the surroundings, it shows the shelter and the model itself as well. A scaled person put besides the model looks like being observing and playing it. The whole set is put on a table with its height around 60 cm. 5 to 8 chairs are provided.
Note: In between human and a big enough environment, the shelter provides a familiar dimension (bedroom-size). Through observing the relationship between “self” and the shelter in the maquette, people can locate themselves more accurate in the environment. The height of the table ensures handicapped people and children can participate effortlessly.
3. Maquette setting
Right after the setting of environment, we considered the model should be fun and easy to play with. It is a 1:50 model provides visible detail of furniture. Furniture is a media that can link people with their everyday life without thinking. And pre-fabricated groups of furniture guide players think directly for “what to happen” rather than “how to realize”. In this way people’s imagination stops effectively at the point of utilitarian basis. We absolutely do not diminish the role of environment designers, but encourage a positive cooperation between them and everyone else.
Then we made transparent boxes to enclose those life scenarios, in considering of hand-friendly. What’s more, magnet joints make people naturally feel happy. When audience were really playing with the model in the exhibition, everyone laughs when gets a sound, “Ka!” from the magnet.
Lastly, we provided grid module equals to 1.2 m per unit. It plays like LEGO, and makes the combination of different blocks easier by providing a hidden rule that different people can play together.
In the project called “Campus Sostenibile” in Politecnical di Milano, we try to answer the question of “improving” under the condition of “bottom” (student) with high mobility, “up” (university) in a high competitive market, and finally a practical “bottom-up” approach. “Up” have to provide better service to attract “bottom”, whereas “bottom” can provide useful information for “up” to improve their service. Hence we use the “in-site maquette” as a friendly way to collect information, by which we want to optimise: 1) understanding of service provided by current environment, and 2) potential to improve the environment in the future with accurate actions.
In other contexts, “in-site maquette” could become an educational tool for children: from knowing the environment to using the environment, and then the potential of changing the environment. Or it could be placed in a domestic environment thus help people adjust furniture placement by themselves. And in exhibition, as a game, it could be used to enlarge the mental experience between the audience and the physical environment.