Increased community connection to the built environment.
American Institute of Architects
The River City Company
Dane Voorderhake with
- Vision problems caused by a stroke in 2007 set architect William (Billy) Feuerman on a new research pathway
- His work examines the role of visual perception in relation to the urban environment
- Outputs include Urban Chandelier, a Chattanooga installation comprised of 999 carbon fibre rods and 6000 styrene triangles.
An unexpected change of perspective
When architect and DAB Senior Lecturer Billy Feuerman suffered a stroke in 2007, he found himself living with double vision for more than a year.
“Both of my eyes worked independently. To move through the city and conduct a relatively normal life, I had to wear an eye patch to see somewhat normally, despite a lack of peripheral vision and depth perception,” he says.
Do you see what I see?
For Feuerman, at the time a prodigious practitioner and a teacher at Columbia University and the Pratt Institute, his altered vision could have stopped his career in its tracks.
Instead, he used the experience as a launching point for a whole new body of research and practice in architecture and visual perception.
“After the stroke, I decided to take some time off, but because I needed some sort of therapeutic outlet, I started to draw the spaces I was seeing,” he says.
Over the next year, he produced a series of documents, architectural models and collages reimagined city spaces based on his altered vision. The work triggered an enduring interest in the idea of how we see – or don’t see – the world around us, and what it means for our relationship with the built environment.
“People don’t experience space anymore because we’re so caught up in our portable technologies, such as our phones. I became interested in producing a series of projects that made us see the city again,” he says.
Reframing the city through architectural design
After joining UTS in 2012, Feuerman’s research led to a series of architectural installations that encouraged people to view the world around them with fresh eyes. These included Outside In for Sculpture by the Sea, and Streetlight Disco for the City of Sydney Art and About.
In 2016, he was selected to design an installation for the Passageways initiative in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Feuerman and his team were tasked with developing a Chattanooga laneway installation that could be built in two weeks, would last at least a year, and cost less than $10,000.
The result was Urban Chandelier, a striking artwork comprised of 999 carbon fibre rods and 6000 styrene triangles that utilise available light sources and the kinetic energy of the wind to create dynamic light patterns.
Changing the nature of space
“These patterns give expression to natural invisible forces, revitalising a forgotten public space,” Feuerman says.“The chandelier requires no technology whatsoever. There’s no additional light source; it’s just receiving reflection, so it’s challenging how materiality can transform space.”Each of the installations components was produced in the DAB Advanced Fabrication Lab, fast-tracking the process to meet stringent project deadlines.
The piece speaks to the broader themes of Feuerman’s work, which looks to activate space to get people re-engaged with the built environment, despite the isolating impacts of modern technology and the world we live in today.
“It’s about how we can take these spaces back and start to celebrate them again,” he says.
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