Experiencing a cold shower

21.11.2011, 15:03
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Natalia Chamayeva, Strelka student, on Carlo Ratti’s Digital Water Pavillion: 


«Carlo Ratti speaks about the Digital Water Pavillion project that SENSEable City Lab did for Saragoza Expo in 2008. Filled with sensors, the pavillion allowed for creation of various patterns, words, and openings in the waterfalls that made up its walls. Each time a visitor came by, a door opening appeared in the water wall for him. Naturally, this pavillion was a great success. But once something went wrong in the computer that controlled the system. The system went crazy, water was streaming with unpredictable frequency and in random patterns. It was not reacting to people approaching in the way it had been programmed. According to Ratti, this is when the real fun began. Soaking wet, people were playing like kids. They were running back and forth, trying to figure out (not always successfully) when the next shower would fall upon them. This reminded me of joker fountains at Peterhof, the Russian imperial residence near St. Petersburg. Its miniature sprayers are hidden in the grass, and water splashes are being suddenly shot at people as they walk over the grounds. Unlike Digital Water Pavillion, these fountains are operated manually, by a person who’s sitting on a bench behind a bush nearby, looking casual and barely noticeable. When the pavillion engine went crazy, it started acting exactly like a real person with his random logic. The interesting thing is that people actually enjoyed it more than the interaction with a pre-programmed responsive system. Actual threat, unsterilized environment, a sharp feeling of reality and a chance to experience a cold shower is what attracts people, surprises them and calls for them to participate in an open interaction with obscure results. Maybe this system breakup, this wreck of pre-planed future cracks something open in people, allowing them to step out of a predetermined circle of predictable thoughts and events».