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A 100 percent PET plastic garden grows in London
If you were fortunate enough to visit the London Olympics this summer and happened to walk through Victoria Park or the main quad at University College London (UCL) on your way to the games, then you experienced BLOOM, a big, bright, architectural garden created by complete strangers who gathered over the course of the two weeks to piece together 60,000 plastic game pieces, all dyed official Olympic hot pink. Designed by Alisa Andrasek and Jose Sanchez, two architecture professors from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, BLOOM was selected by the Greater London Authority for a series of events and installations mounted in two locations during the games with a third location in Trafalgar Square to follow for the upcoming Paralympics.
Andrasek and Sanchez had been developing the idea for an open-ended, crowdsourced game that would encourage interaction between people in a large public space when the opportunity to be involved with the Olympics arose. The timing was perfect. Here was a moment in the city’s history when locals and tourists alike would be in the same location to celebrate athletics, and Andrasek and Sanchez hoped to capitalize on that spirit of camaraderie. The game starts with the pink game pieces, called cells. Each 16 inch-long cell is made of 100% PET plastic and has three points of entry, or notches used to connect the pieces together. Once Andrasek and Sanchez created a design for the cells, they were injection molded at Atomplast, a Chilean plastics fabricator that Andrasek and Sanchez had worked with previously. The cells are flexible, durable and can be bent and twisted into different configurations without warping or breaking. There were also several structural steel components on hand for using with the cells to build benches, tables, forts and other larger formations.
Andrasek and Sanchez began the game by building the first structure themselves, which completely disappeared by the end of the Olympics as people took turns adding onto it and taking pieces away. “Some people really like building whilst others enjoy the act of destroying what someone else did. For us this is mainly the collection and release of energy,” the designers wrote in an email. Though BLOOM doesn’t have any hard and fast rules, the basic guidelines for building were posted on large banners and two BLOOM team members were on hand to answer questions and teach people how to create larger formations. “As much as we provided help, most of the interesting stuff that people built came out of a group of people taking some time to learn how the system behaves just by playing.”
Andrasek and Sanchez also had fun playing with BLOOM and testing out different kinds of structures. “We have built maybe five different versions of structures between Victoria Park and UCL, and each time it’s different as we keep developing skills of how to do it better,” they wrote. “We reached 3.5 meters in height, but it could go higher as long as we keep on reinforcing the structure. On the other hand, there’s a risk with taller structures that can collapse at any time. This did occur several times but the cells are only 200 grams so it’s quite harmless and such an event becomes a motivation to start the game again.”
The BLOOM team brought out 2,000 new pieces each day to facilitate the game and encourage people to build bigger and higher. “The energy for BLOOM is sourced from people’s interactions. None of the pieces can do anything on their own. Only by putting together thousands of them is when the game and the BLOOM garden emerge. The final piece is a collective act of imagination, search and play.” The games are on hold for now, but will begin again soon for the Paralympics, which runs from August 28 – October 9, 2012. After that the pieces can either be collected and used to start another game elsewhere or they can be sent back to Atomplast to be recycled into something new.
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