Dungji / The nest
Soraya Somarathne / United Kingdom
Describe a marginalized person you choose.
The person’s major condition you are trying to deal with.
1. Hikikomori - She is socially withdrawn and has remained isolated at home for at least six consecutive months, and rarely interacts with people from outside her own immediate family.
2. She is disengaged from everything beyond her bedroom walls, turning only to her painting but rarely achieving much knowing her parents want her to pursue something more conventional.
3. She suffers an extreme sense of loneliness, anxiety and depression and feels uninspired about the future.
Describe the design intent for the chosen person.
1. Function: I have designed a bird observatory along the Yangjaecheon stream to encourage her to step out of her physical and mental shell and give her the opportunity to re-engage quietly with the outside world.
2. Form: Translucency and exposure to the elements are aimed at helping her to transition between isolation and integration back into the environment, when ready.
3. Materiality: The design integrates natural materials such as wood and ramie and is immersed in trees along the Yangjaecheon stream. Being in nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress.
4. User Experience: Bird watching is an integral part of the design as animal-assisted therapy is thought to help people understand their anxiety, depression and sadness and offer a sense of companionship.
Societal pressure is driving many of today’s youth into reclusiveness. Often referred to as the “Hikikomori” trend, this is a condition which can lead to extreme social withdrawal. Those suffering may not leave their homes for months or years, disengaging from everything beyond their bedroom walls, and replacing the outside world with computer games or worse alcohol or drugs. Some doctors suggest it is not a mental issue, however, it is very hard to find a biological reason for this kind of behaviour. Many believe it has more to do with environmental, sociological and parenting pressures and very high expectations pushed on young people today. In any case, these young recluses, whilst easily forgotten as they hide away, are our future and need our support.
Proposition Title: Dungji (The Nest)
I propose Dungji, an installation along Seoul’s Yangjaecheon, a stream naturally blessed with fantastic views and different varieties of birds. This shelter for one serves as an opportunity for the socially withdrawn to re-engage with the outside world by observing river birds and other wildlife. Recent studies have shown that bird-watching can have mental, social and physical benefits, because it takes us out into nature and into a state of presence and mindfulness. It is thought that bird watching allows
us to reflect on various incidences and is conducive towards making emotional and mental connections. Some even say that when our souls feel caged and our spirits suppressed, witnessing a bird’s freedom in flight, can unleash our spirit.
The design of Dungji takes great inspiration from the Korean craft of using ramie to weave Mosi cloth. Fine r amie is a strong natural fibre, locally harvested from the ramie plant, and exhibits even greater strength when wet. It is boiled, starched and spun before it is woven on a traditional loom to create the traditional opaque textile. After researching around this technique, I found that ramie threads stretched between yarn guides, before being woven, produced a remarkably translucent quality. I imagined this quality making an elegant facade for a bird observatory as one would be able to see out without feeling caged in.
Bamboo would be used for the main structural frame as it is locally grown and weather-proof with high strength-to-weight properties. The bamboo roof and base have an open slat design to operate as yarn guides as well as provide views above and below. They would be held together with bamboo support poles. Hundreds of ramie threads would be woven vertically between the roof and base and held in tension, to create the desired translucent effect, whilst enclosing the bamboo box. This lightweight
structure would appear to float above the river, but sit on bamboo posts connected to foundations on the river bed.
Dungji, although a shelter for one, could be replicated and installed at various locations along the Yangjaecheon and other embankments around the city to offer a sanctuary as well as a platform for Seoul’s birding enthusiasts and South Korea’s eco-tourism sector.