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“Interwoven Journey” -Valeria Ramirez Ensastiga MA NCSS ‘21

This is the final week of my internship with THP – Mexico. I have had learnings in all senses: from working completely online for the first time to knowing how to talk about the preservation of traditional knowledge without idealizing its fossilization. I am definitely grateful to the RISD Maharam Fellowship, which has allowed me to live this extraordinary experience even in the midst of the pandemic.

Although the recommendation when writing nonfiction for children is to avoid mixing with fiction, we decided that it was important to respond to the indigenuos ‘oraliteratura’ (which is the fact that orality and the use of storytelling is the natural mode of transmission of knowledge among indigenous and rural communities). Thus, the final product is a tale that explains different aspects of sustainable development, coupled with some activities specifically designed to invite the children and their families to reflect about how to achieve a more ecological life.

The story narrates the encounter between Zazil, a girl who lives in a rural community in the jungle, and a jaguar with her cub with the aim of  showing the interconnection between humans, other species and their natural environment. In each of its 12 sections, one different topic is reviewed, explaining the current situation and the necessity to achieve a local sustainable development. Some of the topics are: water, waste reduction, indigenous languages ​​and non-discrimination, traditional food and health, among others.

After several reviews by both, the THP team in Mexico City and some of the youth community leaders (catalysts), the result was two booklets. The children’s booklet contains Zazil’s story, and the catalyst booklet includes the tale plus 4 other sections. The first of these sections contains suggested activities to help children reflect more on the topic covered in each chapter. The second section is a table with data on the topic at the individual, community and global levels. The third section suggests an exercise of deep reflection for the child (and her/his family) to diagnose her (their) own current situation and thus, create a beginning in visualizing changes at the individual and family level that can be carried out to contribute to a sustainable development.  Finally, the fourth section is a list of tips that people can easily follow and share with others in their community. The THP-Mexico team also plans to use the illustrations in this last section to spread the tips through WhatsApp with the other adults that the organization works with.

The illustrations are simple shapes and the selected colors allow the image to be easily understood even though they are printed in black and white, because I figured that some of the young leaders would do the physical distribution within their communities and, for now at least, they will pay the cost of printing, making black and white printing a better option for them. The THP team is looking into funding other alliances to translate the material to some indigenous languages and to do a good quality printing of the material when the pandemic is over. 

This last week I’ve been dedicated to finishing the illustrations and polishing some editorial details that the THP team has observed. Maybe after testing it in the field THP, will need to make some adaptations according to the feedback they get. For now, I am very happy with the results that were obtained because I believe that these will help the catalysts to appropriate the content; transmit it to the children and; also, to spread it within the families of these little ones.


Week 10 & 11: Finishing Transient Stillness and Choreography of Light – Yunni Cho, BRDD 21′

<Transient Stillness>

Transient Stillness is focused on the poetic and abstract nature of daylight and its beauty. It started with my own personal observation of the sky in my neighborhood due to the physical restrictions I faced with the current pandemic. The project was realized by simply trying many different methods to document what I saw and how I felt in response to each and every moment I had with daylight. The result of those experimentations is this book.

Rather than focusing on the objective information or the universal truth, my project communicates a very personal – in fact, quite narrow – point of view towards daylight. By sharing my own perception in this way, I hope to share my appreciation and passion for natural light with others. The use of different techniques attempts to recreate the four visual properties of daylight, analyzing each layer separately. In real life, all four properties occur almost simultaneously to create our vision, which often makes us forget the value of a single property on its own. Through the separation of the properties, I wanted to show the beauty that is unique to each property, allowing the viewers to rethink and evaluate their own perception of light in a similar manner.

This project is about sharing my personal thoughts and experiences. But it can also serve as a guide to follow. For each technique I used, I included a few reference pictures of the daylight conditions I depicted in order to show the whole process of my analysis. I hope these pictures make the drawings more approachable and accessible to understand how they were produced, as they show a snapshot of what I saw at that particular moment. 

We see daylight almost everyday, and yet we rarely find time in our busy lives to appreciate its power and beauty. As this project shows, our natural light constantly changes its form, color, position in space, and movement. In other words, every moment of our daylight is unique and special. 

My ultimate goal for Transient Stillness is to allow one to find more beauty and appreciation in their daily interactions with light. Along with my drawings and pictures, I also included a few quotes from other architects, interior designers, and lighting professionals to provide a wider platform and range of  perspectives to discuss natural light. This project has not ended yet. Indeed, this is just a beginning to start a longer discussion about daylight by inviting others to reflect and share their versions of daylight. Transient Stillness will change and evolve as much as daylight itself.

<Choreography of Light>

In my research, I came across essays on public narrative written by Marshall Ganz in 2008 for Harvard Kennedy School. In this article, Ganz talks about how to effectively create a shared story through a story of self, us, and now. He states that through the narrative story of ‘self’ and ‘us’, one can build a sense of community. Similarly, through the story of ‘us’ and ‘now’, urgency gets formed and ‘purpose’ arises from the story of ‘self’ and ‘now’. I think his logic on public narrative is a perfect fit for the Choreography of Light

A story of self emerges from our lighting – what has shaped ‘me’ – as it reflects one’s individual perception of their surroundings. The chapters on lighting design for architectural spaces shape a story of ‘us’ – about our shared values and experience – forming the connection between lighting and spatial experience, shaping the community of place. The chapters on the excessive use of artificial light in a city and the problem of light pollution is the story of ‘now’ – about strategies  and actions – asking for a solution to urgency. 

By borrowing Ganz’s method to organize different chapters, I wanted to achieve simplicity. I organized each chapter in the same order using the same medium. Every chapter starts with a source picture, which is then digitally analyzed to show different layers of lighting, followed by an essay about a broader theme, and ends with citations and notes from my research process. Through this straightforward organization, my aim was to present relatable and accessible content for a wide audience from diverse backgrounds. Sharing stories about light from many different vantages, this project attempts to engage in ongoing collaborative research about our usage of light in various environments through non-academic pedagogies.

In creating this project, I received immense help from Ulrike Brandi, a well-known lighting designer and a professional based in Hamburg, Germany and Luca Salas Bassani Antivari, an architectural designer and lighting specialist from Mexico City. Despite our time differences and working schedules, we were in constant contact with each other through video calls and messaging. I would like to thank them for their contributions and generous support.

<Virtual presentation / meeting Notes>


B1-Sensing the Senses: Design for Sensory Overload Mitigation in Public Spaces- Chetan Dusane- MID ’21

May be ‘The Scream’ is an aftermath of Sensory Overload!

!t was a FaMily of 5ive; mother, fat#er, two preTeen daughters, and a younger s0n. The park was over_full and lined with medDling, loud hawkers, and auto-rickshaw drivers, as us<ual. The parents whisked the Children around to find the perfect spot, or rather, just some sp0t to sit. After squeezing through the crOwd to settle down on a patch of grAss, it was time to get some snacks from the bAYing and moBBed hawkers. StriVing hard to order the snacK and harder t_o get it, the father then finds the faMily to see the wife struGgling to rein in the childr:en. The stru?Gle continues to ward oFf the stra/y dogs and l@@k after the chiLdren who are scu{rying around to get in [ong, disorderly queues for the merry-go-rounds. The h<nking vehicles outside, clam@uring people, inap#ropriate lights and stray animals, make the place aberrantly ten$e. The husba/^d sco[ds the meek wife for something, with the argument ending with a slAp across the eldest daughter’s f@ce for no apparent fault of hers. The family )eaves in a huff, )eaving be%ind the unfinisheb snack$, only for the stRays to $camper around with another groUp trying to shOO them aw_ay and ‘grab’ the spot, and the hu$$tle continues…

(imagine having constantly scrambled experiences in daily life just as the words in the paragraph above!)

This was when it struck me! The irony of our experiences as urban Indians with most of our public spaces. The very spaces meant for the facilitation of services and life in general, turning into arenas of sensory abuse.

I could not help but wonder about our daily experiences as the citizens of the world’s most densely populated city, Mumbai and retrace a typical day in it. The harried ticket vendors in packed public buses, frigid auto-rickshaw drivers with blaring music, flustered traffic police personnel in the perpetually noisy and suffocating traffic jams; fazed, overburdened, indifferent public officials; the often scurrying and disorderly citizens, catching a suburban train running six times its capacity or frustratedly waiting at the same traffic light multiple times as queues outrun the green light or hustling daily to get a bite at an overcrowded roadside shack or the perpetual competition even to fulfil basic necessities, compelled me to study the effects of such constant distraction and sensory abuse of an average citizen.

Glimpses of Daily Life in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region including Panvel City

Such overstimulation of the bodily senses due to stimuli present in the urban environment can lead to Sensory Overload (SO). It has been linked to stress, anxiety, bouts of anger, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), etc., among the urban populations. It can have adverse effects on the performance of individuals in urban settings. Most importantly, it made me wonder whether it makes us desensitized and unempathetic as people. This pervasive phenomenon, I feel, eventually affects the very ethos of the community. This disquiet towards the phenomenon of SO proved to the genesis of this project.

The local government bodies in India responsible for public spaces, like the Panvel Municipal Corporation (or PMC, the collaborating agency in this work) do not have an active mechanism to identify, link and tackle the various factors within an urban setting which cause SO. An enquiry into the matter revealed that PMC and other local governments, in general, deal with SO grievances only through actions like installing signs or imposing fines and not by understanding its root causes. This modus-operandi generally leads to non-standardized methods of problem identification, establishment and solving. The solutions drawn from such processes are reactive, non-replicable and non-optimal, without a robust framework.

The plan is to develop a deeper understanding of the SO, to establish its underlying causes in urban environments. I aim to build a problem identification and establishment framework, as a tool to comprehend SO, its multi-dimensional attributes and their interrelations, in select public space(s) in the rapidly developing and densely populated city of Panvel in the state of Maharashtra. A city, which now falls under the bustling Mumbai Metropolitan Region, with the saturated crowds from the neighbouring Mumbai city escaping here for some relative respite. This work will be an attempt at introducing Design/Systems Thinking in the corporation’s process of developing overload mitigation measures and policies for public spaces across the city.

Location of Panvel Municipal Area on the Map of India

Currently, my work involves studying the human senses and their interactions with the built environment. The Indian context, however, presents challenging but exciting opportunities in this regard owing to the additional layers of complexity due to cultural, traditional, lingual, financial, and environmental diversity of the region. Initial conversations with the people there, provide a sense of their unawareness regarding their exposure to SO. Only through diligently framed and vetted (as unbiased as possible) questionnaires, do they recognize some of its effects like exhaustion, stress, irritability, disinterest in professional and personal life etc. I expect these interactions to lead to the identification and establishment of the various factors responsible for SO and the most affected public spaces in the context of Panvel. Further, efforts are underway to find out the overload limits of various senses. Through this study, the elements of the built environment that contribute to SO will be analyzed, contextualized and effort will be made to visualize their hierarchy.

The Seven Senses under Study

One of the significant learning until now is the fact that SO is a highly contextual and personal phenomenon, quite dynamic in nature depending on various psychological, anthropological and environmental factors. It calls for a holistic approach to investigation. Secondly, I have realized a need for due consideration and thought to define an overload of a particular sense, the urbanness of a region and the ways senses interact with one another, and the environment.

The inability to be physically present on the field to record practical experiences and the hectic schedule of PMC because of the COVID-19 crisis management works are the hindrances to the data collection process. Moreover, there is a shortage of data in the Indian context to help quantify the sensory stimuli. Nevertheless, I continue to review the available literature and collect data through online questionnaires as an alternative to field study and in-person interviews. My next steps would be to try and connect with PMC as much as possible and find connections and patterns within the data generated from various resources. The progress is sluggish given the circumstances, but I remain positive and motivated.


WEEK 8 & 9: Now is the time for strategic planning and execution – Yunni Cho, BRDD 21’

As discussed in my previous blog, I had spent some time reflecting on my progress and testing different methods for presentation. The previous two weeks were about finalizing deliverables and presentation methods. I first finished making time lapse videos of making the ‘color’, ‘position in space’, and ‘movement’ sections for Transient Stillness in addition to the previous section on the ‘form’. I am very satisfied with the format of a video for showing the process of how each drawing and picture was created. The time-lapse technique allows me to tell a somewhat long and complicated history of making in a shortened period of time, which could be a very effective tool for communication. 

In addition to this time-lapse video, I included ‘body’ pages to the ‘Transient Stillness’ book design, which are five selected drawings from each section alongside with the source picture of the sky. I photoshopped all the pictures to be black and white for the section on ‘form’ and ‘position in space’ to match the style of the drawings. And for the section on the ‘movement’, I included three screenshots from the original time-lapse videos that were used to create three divided sections for each of the images.

Similarly, for the Choreography of Light, I wanted to find a way to organize all the contents and unite the chapters in a cohesive manner. Choreography of Light started with an intention to create an open, accessible, and friendly forum to understand and analyze light around the world. More specifically, this project is focused on understanding  the coexistence of natural light and artificial light. Each photo chosen for a chapter serves as a starting point to discuss important issues around the use and power of light. And through a collection of photo-analysis of different urban light conditions, the project aims to find the right amount and balance of bright and darkness needed in our cities and beyond. 

Last week, I came across a literature on public narrative written by a professor. Marshall Ganz in 2008 for Harvard Kennedy School. In this article, he talks about how to effectively create a shared story through a story of self, us, and now. He states that through the story of ‘self’ and ‘us’, one can build a sense of community. Similarly, through the story of ‘us’ and ‘now’, urgency forms and ‘purpose’ arises from the story of ‘self’ and ‘now’. And I thought his logic on public narrative could be perfectly applied to the Choreography of Light

So far, I have five chapters in total – four chapters on exploring lighting usage in a house, office, museum, and an urban night-scape, through which I discuss the problem of light pollution and the power of light in an architectural design. I also have a chapter on light and perception, questioning how different light intensities and angles could alter our vision. Light and perception shows a story of self – what has shaped ‘me’ – as it reflects one’s individual perception of their surroundings. The chapters on lighting design for a house, office, and museum form a story of us – shared values and experience – as it talks about the connection between lighting and spatial experience, shaping the community of place. The chapter on the excessive usage of artificial light in a city and the problem of light pollution is the story of now – strategy and action – as it asks for a solution to urgency. As my chapters could follow Ganz’s structure of an effective public narrative, I would like to try organizing my chapters with the same strategy by telling the story of self, us, and now. 

As we are approaching the final month of the fellowship, we created a sharable remote server between my laptop and the office in Hamburg, Germany. Through the VPN connection and the Microsoft desktop software, I now have access to all the files from Germany and can easily share and save my documents on Ulrike’s computer. This remote connection allows us to work more efficiently and take advantage of our time difference by using the same computer in different time zones. 

In our previous group zoom meetings between South Korea, Germany, and Mexico, we proposed that dusk and dawn periods have different colors and durations depending on the latitude and longitude. Both Ulrike and Luca shared time-lapse videos they took in their countries, and I combined them with mine to create this short video to start the comparison to test our theory. It is just a beginning to an ongoing research project, but we are already noticing apparent differences just by looking at the videos.

Before I end this blog, I wanted to share my notes from an exhibition I visited on July 25th, Watching Together hosted by Jeju Museum of Art. The presentation aimed to explore and contemplate the future of Korean art through a display of various multidimensional art. Every single artist from the show made a very careful use of light in their work, and many different light sources were installed in various colors, intensities, and scales. Although these works were very different to my projects in terms of their style and format, I found some commonalities between some of the works and my projects in the language of light. And the exhibition was very moving and inspiring.


Wrapping up, and reflecting on my time at the farm, Eli Kauffman, BFA Painting 21′

Still of James introducing the farm from the virtual tour video.

I have just completed my last few days down at the Green Phoenix Farm, and am following though on a few last minute elements of the project that need finishing touches. In the past two weeks I have spent less time working on the murals, and much more time editing the virtual tour video. Though it is now completed, Wasatch Community Gardens has yet to post the video, because we are still evaluating the best context to show it in. The intended impact is on potential donors and volunteers who show an active interest in learning more about the farm, but there is possibility for the virtual tour to have a larger impact. Overall I am pleased with the film and feel that it depicts the lively energy of the farm as best it can. James, Julie, and Cher did a wonderful job speaking on camera, and their personalities showed through even in the shorter clips.

Top: Still of Cher and myself walking through the farm. Bottom: Still of Cher feeding the chickens.

Over the past week many members of the team including Cher and Julie have had to miss work for personal reasons, so unfortunately only a few members of Wasatch Community Gardens have seen the final film so far. Though it was well received by them, I am still hoping to show the rest of the team at some point and see what they think. Because so much of the team was absent from the farm recently, it has been a quiet end to my time here. Though it hasn’t been the ending I expected, reflecting on the past 9 weeks I can proudly say that in collaboration with Wasatch Community Gardens, I have been able to accomplish all of the goals set out in our proposal.

Top: A photo of the first mural now that the crops have grown in around it. Bottom: The other side of the Solar Shed, completed last week.

Compared to when I started the fellowship, I now know so much more about what it means to make public art and work with a community to create visuals that are significant to them. The murals I have been able to do on the farm are nothing like the paintings that I make in my personal practice, but learning that those can be separate has been a positive. I have also learned so much more about planting, harvesting, and plant identification. These new skills will affect my artistic and personal growth more than I even expected initially.

Photo from harvesting Mizuna seeds in my section of the farm.

Though I will still be able to occasionally go volunteer or visit the farm, my time there will be much more limited. I am still looking forward to the possibility of working on more public art on Wasatch Community Gardens’ educational campus in the future, but that wouldn’t happen until construction is finished a while from now. After having gotten to know the Green Phoenix Farm so well, I am still amazed at their impact and how many people from different areas of the city they are able to feed. I have so much admiration for the work that they do and their consistent dedication to it. I can only hope that my artistic contribution will help to better reflect their mission and personality to visitors of the farm in the future.

Weekly shares from the farm waiting to be picked up by community members.