City of Voids – Construction of City

Welcome. It is the year 2050, where mankind have found a way to build structures higher than ever before. But before we delve into this futuristic world, let us see what brought them here.


It all began with a sound – a tune. This tune was fabricated by the most masterful musicians the world could find. This would be used as the inspiration for the city.

You cannot help but feel a sense of serenity when as the tune is being played. Composed of different instruments, each brings a new idea and elements to the development of the city.

The team took the best elements from their individual mood boxes and placed them into the group mood box.

Zig Zag Block – The rough sounds of the zigzag block is consistent throughout the piece. To demonstrate this, we took a hard wire mesh and warped it to form a spiral through the entire frame. The rough and prickly texture was to represent the unevenness of the Zig Zag Block.  

Shaker – Like above, the shaker evoked a sense of falling beads or water. To show this, we cut up pieces of blue acrylic in the shape of triangles and hung them off fishing lines to represent rain cutting through the voids.  

Wooden Blocks –The wooden blocks appears several times thoughout our composition and it pierces the rhythm of the constant sound the Zig Zag Blocks make. This was represented by the penetration of the wire mesh by the wooden sticks.  

Tone Bars and Void – The tone bar was a final note before silence. The sound seemed to linger in the air before dissipating. To show this, we used cotton wool and we attached it to the top of the wire mesh, outside of the entire frame. It was crucial for the cotton wool to be outside the frame as we wanted to show how it slowly fades into the air.

Moving on to the construction of our city!

The builders had many ideas for how their city would look like. As the builders of this city felt that the sound used for the inspiration had many elements of serenity and tranquility, we wanted to explore that idea.

One element that often popped up during discussions was the use of water for our city. By incorporating water into the city, we could use it as a viable means of transport.

We begin with several sketches.

After looking at the sketch, the builders decided to look for what kind of modular structures they could incorporate into their model. What better way to source for inspiration than mother nature herself.

They looked into various habitats in the sea. Coral reefs were one of the biggest inspiration for their ideas. They also looked into sea creatures which live amongst these habitats! Most notably, fishes and turtles. The scales of fishes form a unique over lapping structure which protects them from predators as well as reducing drag underwater.

Next, we have turtles! Their shell closely resembles that of fishes as they have a shape similar to a pentagon.

As the brainstorming continued, one of the builders started to get hungry and his mind started drifting off. However, as he was lost in his world, he found a eureka moment! Nagashi Somen (Bamboo noodles) came into his mind for the use of a modular structure.

Bamboo has been widely used for construction in Japan (our builder happens to also be half japanese) and we delved into researching the types of structures we could create using bamboo.

As they initially wanted to incorporate the use of water in the city, bamboo was the perfect choice as it is waterproof as well as light which made it a versatile material to use.

They also incorporated elements of coral reefs into the concept, by using the modular structures of the corals as the habitat. 

The idea was to have a central canal which would run through the entire city, providing them with a highway for commuting. We would also have different levels to the city, which was inspired by Bamboo fountains.

However, as the builders brought their ideas to the Governor, she warned us that the materials required would be too expensive and it would also be difficult to construct as the material is rigid and difficult to manipulate without proper equipment. The governor generously shared her wisdom with  the builders and advised them to use PVC piping instead. This would result in a easier material to work with as well as saving them money.

It was back to the drawing board with their idea as they could not execute the multi-tier city anymore as it would look out of place using bamboo. With the use of PVC piping, it evoked a more futuristic look.

As they re-imagined the city, they started to look for ideas on what would make it look like a futuristic city. When they thought of cities, extremely high-rise buildings comes into mind. This gave them the idea to create the illusion of having a ‘floating’ city with the use of mirrors.

They had many discussions on how to create such a look as there were many elements to consider such as the source for our materials and the execution as none of them have ever attempted something like this before. They came up with more sketches to try and envision how our city would look like.

There was also the problem of lighting. As light was crucial to create the illusion, they had to decide if we wanted the lighting to be on the buildings, or within the buildings.

They then settled for the lighting to be internal as it would have looked too forced if the lighting was from the outside. However, by having the lighting inside the buildings, they had to think of ways to place a strong enough light source within such a small area.

After they decided the look of the city, theystarted to source for inspiration on how our city would look like.

One of the inspirations was the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. This structure has a similar form to PVC piping and is a great place to begin. However, the structure looked too uniform and the builders realized that it would not make for a interesting composition when coupled with mirrors from their installation.

Once again, the builders were back to the drawing board. They decided to turn to nature again to source for their inspiration. Little did they know, that this process of looking to nature for inspiration is called biomimicry design, as explained by this video.


As the builders wanted to evoke the feeling and illusion of verticaility, we turned to structures which seem to be spanning upwards.

DNA’s structure has a spiral form and the spiral implies a direction. This was useful research as the builders could incorporate this into the design of the city to give it the look of ascension.

They also started to source for structures which may have similar qualities.

This is the F & F Tower located in the city of Panama. The spiral gives the illusion of the building reaching into the sky.


As the city would be located within a dark area to make full use of the illusion of an infinite building, it had to be located in a dark area. The builders set out to find a suitable location for their city.

They stumbled upon this obscure place, one that has been left untouched for ages… it almost seemed as though there used to be another civilization which lived there…

This location seemed to be in line with the theme of verticality as well as their choice of materials which made it a perfect location. The eyes are naturally drawn upwards because of all the lines the pipe creates, giving the sense of voids within the space.

With everything in place, they set forth to build the city!


 They began by building a prototype based on the various inspirations which they found.

The builders wanted to incorporate the spiral into  their composition. They also left holes between each module which represented a window.

With the structure in mind, they set out to purchase the needed materials to build the structure.


They first began by selecting pipes of different sizes and materials. After which, they proceeded to create the hub.

The pipes were stuck together using Blu-tac initially to ensure that the builders could still change the design if there was any additional feedback.

Slowly, the city was coming together.

One Way Mirror

Next, the builders had to source for a one way mirror. As purchasing one would be too expensive for them, they managed to find a seller which offered one way mirror films. This was much less expensive and it allowed us to work with more materials.

The mounting of the film was a tricky process, however, after the first failed attempt, our builders managed to apply the film onto the acrylic board properly, with minimal bubbles.

If you look closely at the image below, you can see that small bubbles of impurities have appeared on the surface. The team was not satisfied with this craftsmanship which was why they decided to try again, this time in a more sterile environment.

The second attempt was much more successful as we had the proper tools to do the job and we had a smooth surface. As you can see, one of our skilled builders making sure that the impurities were a thing of the past.

The film was applied masterfully thanks to the dexterity of Hannah!

After sorting out the one way mirror, the team moved on to find out what is the best way to light their structure.


Initially,  the team used a wooden frame for their model. However, this distracted the audience from the full experience as the frame could be seen in the mirror.

The team then changed the frame by using flat boards instead of long pieces of wood so that the edges would be flush against each other.

The builders then spray painted the sides to be glossy so as to reflect more light from the city.


This was the biggest trouble the builders faced as the light source had to be strong enough to produce the full effect. We had a variety of sources of light, however, all of them had to be connected to a socket which was tough because there was no sockets around the obscure location.

These were some of the lights which the team found but could not use.

LED Strips from IKEA.

Strip LED lights

We had to source for battery operated lights.

Thankfully, we were able to find strong LED lights used for hiking and biking.

The team attached two of these onto both the top and bottom of the hubs to increase the intensity of the light. For greater measure, the team lined the inside of the pipes to allow the light to bounce off the walls better.

This directional light was God sent as we used it to light the habitats.


The highway was put together using straws. The team had them descending as they wanted them to join with the main structures of the city.

Putting the City together





People up working late at night in the hub. Society has found a way to do away with sleep.

Due to the height of these structures, residents are required to travel with an orb as the atmosphere is too thin, resulting in little oxygen in the air.


More close ups on the city


Overall, I’ve grown tremendously during this first semester in terms of craftsmanship as well as idealisation. I realised that no one form of art can be compartmentalised and separated from each other as they can all be interwoven with each other.

Despite my confusions at the start of this assignment, I was really glad how it all came together nicely once we took a step back to look at the results. It is amazing how such a seemingly insignificant tune of less than 30 seconds could convey such a strong message when we break it down to its individual components.

I feel that breaking down elements to their dominant, sub dominant and sub ordinate can be applied in all forms of art, design and media as we have progressed through all of the past assignments in this semester.

Thank you Cheryl for being such an inspiration to your students and to me!

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