Architects design an interactive installation at the Smithsonian that calls for participants to overthrow dictators

Architecture East
(Courtesy naworks)

(Courtesy naworks)

Viva la revolución? A new interactive installation in Washington D.C. named Starry Heavens aims to use architecture for anarchy by unifying participants and encouraging them into carrying out collective acts of mobocracy.

(Courtesy naworks)

(Courtesy naworks)

The brainchild of game designer Eric Zimmerman and architect Nathalie Pozzi, Starry Heavens is a quirky neo-political game (of sorts) which features a sleek white, snake-like form that sits above the participants. Below is a grid with black, grey and white interconnected bases, which if anything, is emulative of molecular lattice-like structure.

According to The Creators Project, users have to stand on these bases and can only move when instructed to do so by a “central ruler,” who is the only one allowed to talk. The aim of the game is for the players (who can join at any time) to overthrow the dictator.

(Courtesy naworks)

(Courtesy naworks)

After meeting on Craigslist in 2008, Zimmerman and Pozzi have collaborated on similar projects prior to this one. In their first venture in 2009, they created BlockBall for the Come Out and Play festival.

This isn’t the first outing Starry Heavens has had either as the game in fact was initially designed for a MoMa event, exhibited in 2011. Speaking to The Creators Project, Pozzi explained why the exhibition space at the Smithsonian was a pulling factor. “For the installation at the Smithsonian, the white curve was very much a response to the physical space, we wanted to design a visually striking element that connected the play on the ground with the stunning Kogod Courtyard. The curve serves as a theatrical backdrop for the project and also as the ‘heavens’ of the title, Starry Heavens.”

The installation was fabricated by Erik van Dongen of Air Design Studio. Clara Ranenfir contributed to the design.

(Courtesy naworks)

(Courtesy naworks)

Described by the pair as a “political fable” the installation seeks to use the physicality of the space to enliven themes of power and control, amplifying how this can shift via collaboration of the masses. “Starry Heavens tells an absurdist story of a pointless conflict. Players conspire with and against each other to overthrow a central Ruler, who commands where they can step. Whoever becomes the new Ruler takes over the nonsensical goal of trying to pull down a gigantic helium-filled balloon before they themselves get overthrown and replaced.”

“The way an architect structures space through material is very much like the way a game designer structures behavior through game rules,” Zimmerman explains. “Perhaps architecture can learn to think of itself as a responsive discipline that reflects its environment and its users in a more honest and immediate way.” The physicality of architecture in particular appeals to Zimmerman. “Maybe games can learn to be less disposable,” he says. “I love the idea of designing a game that—like a building—is meant to last for decades or centuries.”

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