Our design was inspired by wild mushrooms, as we felt that we could create a practical and functional sculpture that could retain the original, natural form of the mushroom without too much deviation, as the theme was in relation to nature.
Originally, when we were thinking of an inspiration, we came across a natural phenomenon or attribute known as bioluminescence, where animals in nature like fireflies or deep-sea animals produce their own light from a chemical reaction in their bodies. Certain species of plants and fungi do this as well.
Above (left) are bioluminescent mushrooms and jellyfish (right).
We chose the mushroom as we believed that it would be the most practical form to produce and use, and would serve a function of a shelter, instead of forms like the jellyfish which would not serve a practical function other than being an aesthetic sculptural piece, which would furthermore be more challenging to produce.
Concept 1 (Mushroom fan)
- A relatively large ceiling-suspension type fan is installed in the mushroom cap, blasting air downwards to those standing underneath in the shade.
- There is a barrier made up of grilles that mimic the gills of the mushroom in nature, which prevent animals from entering the space and getting hurt, and prevents large debris from getting caught inside.
- Flexible solar panels are placed atop the dome, and the energy generated goes toward powering the fans.
Concept 2 (Mushroom Air Purifier)
- Air filtration modules are housed in the cap/dome portion of the structures and a physical mesh covers the area where gills are found on the mushroom.
- The installation filters out CO/CO2 and chemical pollutants from the atmosphere, reducing NTU’s carbon footprint and environmental impact.
- It can be placed at areas where there is high human/vehicle traffic.
- Flexible solar panels are placed atop the dome, and the energy generated goes toward powering the filtration system.
Concept 3 (“Living” mushroom shade)
- The stem is connected to the cap/dome at a pivot point where the 2 parts meet.
- The cap is covered with flexible solar panels, and tilts toward the sun, following it’s movement from East to West through the course of the day.
- This is to capture the most sunlight by positioning itself to face the direction with the greatest sunlight intensity.
- The energy generated is pumped back into the grid, reducing overall energy consumption.
Concept 4 (Charging Station)
- Charging ports are placed all around the cylindrical shaft, with a countertop and seats for people to take a rest while charging their devices.
- Energy is derived from the solar panels placed atop the dome.
Feedback & Reflections
After presenting our ideas, we received the response that our ideas were too literal, and that we were taking things at face-value. Also, it was suggested that the mushroom did not connote a positive image, as it was typically found in dark and damp places, growing off natural debris and compost. It also did not convey a social message or a narrative. However, our take on the mushroom was that it represents an ideal of growth, rebirth and renewal, as it grows from what has passed on and turns it into new life. Perhaps this could represent our university in the sense that it is a young university that is constantly growing, and that we as students are growing and enhancing ourselves in our time in NTU.
We felt that because we were focusing on creating a practical structure to be placed in a real-world environment and that had to interact with people, while being functional and feasible, we were somewhat blindsided, losing the original intention and aim which was to create a narrative and convey a message. As mentioned, message can also act as function and can possess inherent value, so semantics is very important here. Furthermore, we need to take into account the cultural and social sensibilities that exist within our context, because we cannot exist within a vacuum. As quoted from ‘Design in the real world’ by Victor Papanek, “The telesic content of a design must reflect the times and conditions that have given rise to it, and must fit in with the general human socio-economic order in which it is to operate.”.
“The reason we enjoy things in nature is that we see an economy of means, simplicity, elegance and an essential tightness in them. But they are not design. Though they have pattern, order, and beauty, they lack conscious intention. If we call them design, we artificially ascribe our own values to an accidental side issue.”. Things that exist or appear in nature are as a result of evolution, and of geological and astronomical phenomena and processes et cetera. They arise just because it is meant to be, or it is the most organic way for them to be. However, when we design, we must imbue a conscious intention into designing, that is relevant to both the time and space, and embody the sensibilities of the people it is intended for. The challenge is in creating something that does not exist naturally but evokes the feeling and fluidity of something that exists naturally.
Moving forward, we would like to rethink our narrative, such that it better suits this social and cultural climate that is NTU, and by extension Singapore and Asia. We hope to create a design that is both evocative and utilitarian, adding to the lives of NTU students while conveying a pertinent message.