Project's Summary

Garden Novella, a captivating project by the Other Work architectural studio, seamlessly combines new media technology with hand-crafted objects to create a remarkable social platform that connects local businesses and community activists. This innovative experience takes the form of an immersive garden, where audio recordings of stories told by the people of Southwest Detroit come alive through a mesmerizing soundscape choreography. The garden serves as a living tapestry of stories, plants, and lights, inviting visitors to explore and engage with the vibrant narratives that unfold within.

At the heart of this enchanting garden are six gateways, strategically organized in an overlapping pattern to create a landscape of themes that emerged during the storytelling process. Each gateway is thoughtfully themed, ranging from Introductions and Sense of Community to Immigration, Places in Southwest, Passions, and Hope for the Future of Southwest. As people walk through the garden, sonar motion sensors activate lights and speakers, encouraging them to delve deeper into the immersive experience. By standing or sitting under a particular gateway, visitors are enveloped in a soundscape that gives hierarchy to the individual narrative shared within that specific theme.

The beauty of Garden Novella lies in its ability to connect disparate stories, fostering a sense of unity and understanding among its visitors. While one gateway may feature the poignant tale of a Vietnam war veteran working towards racial harmony in the community, a nearby gateway might play a story in Spanish, showcasing the intersectionality and common threads that bind us all. This clever juxtaposition of narratives creates a rich tapestry of shared experiences, amplifying the voices of the diverse individuals who call Southwest Detroit home.

The garden's design elements further enhance the immersive experience. Suspended plants evoke a sense of uprootedness and transplantation, mirroring the journeys of countless immigrants in Southwest Detroit who have had to establish new roots in unfamiliar surroundings. Additionally, the light-filled vessels, inspired by the traditional Mexican luminaria lanterns, pay homage to the immigrant families' sense of belonging and their contributions to the fabric of the community.

Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, the geometric family of vessels in the garden - including lights, planters, and storage benches - were cast using custom rubber molds. The LED light vessels were created using urethane resin, while the planters employed lightweight rockite. The storage benches, on the other hand, were crafted using artisan concrete and a unique pressing technique. These elements not only add to the visual allure of the garden but also serve as functional components, seamlessly blending form and utility.

As visitors explore Garden Novella, they are greeted by mirrors that line the underside of the canopy. These mirrors beautifully reflect the image of oneself, serving as a poignant reminder that we are all connected despite our differences. The reflections offer a visual metaphor for the power of empathy, allowing individuals to see themselves while hearing someone else's story, someone whose narrative may be vastly different from their own.

In conclusion, Garden Novella is a testament to the power of storytelling, community, and artistry. By merging new media technology with hand-crafted objects, this immersive garden creates a captivating social platform that celebrates the diversity and shared experiences of Southwest Detroit. Through its thoughtfully designed gateways, evocative soundscape, and visually stunning elements, Garden Novella invites visitors to engage with the narratives that shape our communities and foster a deeper sense of understanding and connection among individuals from all walks of life.

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