(Excerpt from my Habilitation)
Passage is a project carried out in 2012 by Gracia Goh, Chiyong Lim, and Kate Vermeyen at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Passage focuses on the place of transition between two physical spaces, i.e. their inter-space. The project statement invites students to create a design for the inter-space without influencing the experience of either space. This statement seems a priori phenomenologically incoherent, since the experience of something external to oneself necessarily takes place in a space and requires that the user’s attention be directed at least partially towards this thing. Yet, not only does the inter-space not seem to be a space (but rather a surface), and the attention of a person passing through a door is most often directed towards the space in which they intend to travel.
After multiple iterations including prototype production, situation tests, reflections based on the Kansei context, etc., a remarkable design has gradually taken shape. Passage is an installation mounted on the frame of a door. This installation consists of a line of light-emitting diodes (RGB LEDs) projected on a thin aluminium foil that reflects light back towards the door once it is ajar. The diodes very slowly change the emitted color. The aluminium foil undulates depending on how the door is opened: a quick opening will create much more turbulence than a slow opening. The light impression projected on the door is therefore unique with each opening and closing.
What is remarkable about this design is that the light projection is not visible to the passer-by when the door is fully closed or open, so that interaction only takes place in the action of the door opening. The experience begins as soon as you start opening the door and ends before you finish opening it. Not only is the installation (almost) located in this inter-space, but the experience is also located in this inter-space: it almost does not interfere with the passer-by’s intentionality to pass into the next space. The design objective is thus achieved.
In addition to certain “classical” kansei descriptors, such as the grain, the light-shade interaction or the feeling of an invitation to appreciate this inter-space, kansei descriptors specific to this project have been established: instantaneity and the elusive, and even more so their couple. What is remarkable is that this experience is engaging from the point of view of its expression, engaging by the gesture, and that its intensity comes from the fact that it is very short, unavoidable, and elusive: in an instant it engages us then liberates us, without us being able to really escape it, or do anything about it. That is the beauty of this design.