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Why Not Just Take a Hike? Questions About the Fifth Space

I am enthusiastic about art that facilitates our connection with nature, heightens our experience of the cosmos, and recalls our long evolutionary past. As I’ve described my concepts for the semi-wild spaces outside cities, people have raised legitimate questions.

Last week I had the chance to give a talk to the SW Design Share seminar hosted by DLR Group so I included a discussion of those questions. See the video discussion below.

In the talk, we addressed:

  1. Is managed access to semi-wild sites ethical? Shouldn’t access be free?

  2. Should we be building anything in the wilderness?

  3. What about the previous inhabitants and users of the land. What about preserving heritage sites alongside Fifth Space experiences?

  4. Why not just take a hike?

  5. How is this different from Land Art or Architecture?

Honestly, the most common question is a variation on “why not just take a hike?” I’ve come to think that sometimes we need a structure for our interaction with nature – a way of focusing, shaping, purifying and concentrating some of the light and sound in nature to awaken our understanding so that we are better receivers for the rest of the light and sound that we experience every day. We have extraordinary experiences in these sculptures so that we can bring something special back to our ordinary experiences. Even when we hike, we choose to stop in special places, pause where our views are framed, orient ourselves to the bigger world, and connect with each other. We say “let’s take a break when we get to that lookout.” Hiking is actually a series of moments that occur against a backdrop of walking with one’s head down. Fifth Space experiences are just the latest incarnation of a form of human intervention that has a tremendous track record. Over the last 1000 years, the ‘country villa’ and the ‘beach house’ are archetypal structures for renewal and reconnection with nature. The origin of festivals like Burning Man involve ceremonial structures in nature, although most festivals have grown to the size of cities themselves so they may not fulfill the same functions I am aiming for. Ecotours and luxury hotels built deep within wilderness are attempts at structures designed to heighten and focus our connection to nature – and they can be very successful at this. Going back still further in time, we find stone rings like Stonehenge, decorated caves, sundials, and portable devices built using the best technology available to people at their time. The archaeological record is filled with structures to permit ceremony, observation, connection and celebration just like the Fifth Space sculptures I propose – and many of those structures of connection and celebration date back at least as far as structures of fortification or storage. It is this deep pedigree that goes back to the earliest art and human structures to which I turn for the mandate to build these 21st century sculptures.


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