The first thing that came to mind about an industrial design artifact that changed the way I normally look at things was Kaleidoscape – an interactive modular public seating system at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. If you have not had the pleasure of interacting with it, it is a series of different size seating blocks that can be moved around to create new patterns and arrangements.
The size, shape, and color of the pieces are extremely inviting to manipulate, evoking the “strangely familiar” principle from Blauvelt, and “design for experiencing” and “participatory culture” from Sanders. The size is slightly larger than normal public seating systems, making the user feel small like a child, and the colors are bright like children’s toys, and this taps into how users interact with these objects: playing with them like in their childhood. The structures are also portable, multifunctional (facilitate multiple social or solo activities), and extraordinary design that change the entire space of the BAMPFA.
Since there are many components to the seating sculpture, it is also allows for users to feel like they are creating a new pattern and contributing to the space – which is “participatory culture” as defined by Sanders. Additionally, since there are many components, every user has an opportunity to contribute and participate.
When I first interacted with the piece, it was an extremely social and fun experience. My friends and I could create a new space with strangers, an experience we would never have had on a traditional public bench or other seating system. The piece invites conversation and interaction, but can also be broken into smaller pieces to create private spaces for conversation. It makes me wish that more participatory sculptures existed in public spaces, or that public seating could be rearranged – it would be strange to move a bench in Wheeler Hall to the window, but it is totally acceptable – in fact, encouraged – to do it at the BAMPFA.
URL to video on Kaleidoscape: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kcRN5OL5cI