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talking trees

New Innes Street Underpass | Inverness
Shortlisted design proposal | December 2011

Tunnels have the potential to create exciting, dramatic and fun spaces. My design for the New Innes Street Underpass aims to:
- be visually stimulating, inviting and exciting
- encourage continued involvement from the community of all age groups and thus a sense of ownership
- incorporate anti-graffiti and anti-social behavior measures

My “talking trees” concept for the New Innes Street Underpass, uses both visual and audio elements to create a new pedestrian experience.
Local residents of all ages will be invited to write and record a reading of their own story of Inverness. These short passages can be personal stories, local history, poetry, short stories or quotes- bringing alive through storytelling and sound the history and present day spirit of the local area.
This audio recordings will then be played discretely into the underpass through speakers- effectively giving the continually refreshed captive audience of pedestrians a new performance for the 30 seconds it talks to walk through the tunnel.
Enveloping all surfaces of the tunnel, adding a sense of openness and movement- new tunnel interior artwork is a geometric abstracted interpretation of a parkland avenue of trees. Perforated panels are joined together in a jigsaw to form the silhouetted outline of the tree branches. These panels sit raised from the wall surface, concealing and protecting lighting behind. The walls on the tunnel are painted with the ‘leaves’ of the trees in a bold, repeating ‘wallpaper-like’ pattern. There is the option to customise these leaves with the text of the locals’ stories.

The nearby Inverness Main Library and schools are the ideal stimulus for generating interest in this project with people of all ages.
Through workshops, the process of writing and recording the audio readings will be done in groups. This element of the artwork can be an ongoing project by providing and ever increasing library of audio recordings over time, and so this will keep a focus and interest in the underpass’ upkeep.
The visual design has scope for development with local’s involvement- such as making the tree silhouettes identifiable as species native to the area. Using stencils, the public can also come to the site and be involved in the painting of the walls. School groups can also be involved in distributing leaflets about the project.

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