Urban Tales is a time-based, site-specific piece of environmental typography created by Katie Bevin, a student in the Graphic Design Program, College of Creative Arts at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand.
For her final project in 2010, Bevin combined form with shadow to create a temporal typographic narrative in Wellington’s urban Waitangi Park.
The conceptual installation works like an analemmatic sundial. In the existing park environment, eight bollards at the entrance to the park are spaced at regular intervals. Bevin used these as shadow-casting objects (gnomons). Based on the dimensions of the poles, she created a modular typeface equivalent in width to the shadows they cast. Parts of the letterforms were reproduced on the ground surrounding the bollards so that, as the sun moved across the sky, the shadows cast by the bollards moved, completing a letter at each increment of 45 degrees. Words become visible when shadows meet the shapes on the ground, constructing a phrase that appears over a 10-hour period. The lines of the phrase can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with each word appearing for approximately an hour. The forms ultimately spell out the phrase by Dr. Seuss:
“From here to there and there to here”
Shadows change in length during the course of the day, so Bevin measured the shadow and light play and accommodated this by placing forms at varying distances from the poles. In the evening and morning, for example, shadows are longer, so the letters are placed farther away from the bollards.
The project also included an interpretive element designed to lead visitors on a journey of discovery about the park. Reproduced within the large letterforms, short narratives tell stories of visitors’ recent and past experiences in Waitangi Park. Bevin gathered these narratives by asking friends to Tweet about their memorable moments there.
Bevin hopes the conceptual piece will be installed at the park, and has presented a proposal to that effect to the Wellington City Council.
To learn more about Bevin’s process, visit her blog at http://re-imagingtheurban.tumblr.com/
“The jury was overwhelmingly impressed by this project’s resourcefulness. Even with a non-existent fabrication budget, this student work had more visual impact than many of the projects submitted by professionals and design firms. This project stood out because of the unexpected use of existing environmental details (pylons), the formulation of a new modular typeface, and the overall creativity and novelty of the project.”
“An extremely thoughtful and creative concept. Delightful and engaging.”
“When something touches you and elevates the mundane in such a simple and profound way, it can only be terrific design.”
“Simple and clever idea, worked into a comprehensive, conceptual environmental design strategy, providing joy for the engaged user. I give it an A.”
Nick Kapica (project mentor), Annette O’Sullivan (research advisor)
Instructors: Nick Kapica (Massey University, ICD subject director/project mentor)