Stack It Up: Triple O Studio & ArchitectureRED

Made of the most basic elements that represent architecture and aspirations, Stack It Up, a temporary installation for CRY built by Triple O Studio in collaboration with architectureRED on the shores of Marina Beach in Chennai, gives voice to the stifling of a child’s dreams under our present education system.

As a child, we would have all faced the big question: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Everyone has a different answer to this question and as we grow up these answers change and evolve. When we are young, our dreams seem somewhat naive: uninhibited by fears and blissfully ignorant of realities; later in life, they mature: they are weighed-out, guided by the education we receive, the information that is at our disposal and more often than not, what the family requires and economy favours. Mostly, our dreams turn to aspirations. A lot has been said about holistic growth of a child (or the lack of it) within the current educational system in India. However, not enough, clearly.

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Located on Marina Beach, the installation’s dominant presence was unmissable.
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The outer layer is made of scaffoldings, as seen here, before the stacking began.
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The rendered elevation of the installation, before construction.

 

In 2013, an installation called Stack It Up was put up on the west coast of Chennai, at Marina Beach, which made a visual statement towards ‘Giving Wings to Children’. Stack It Up, designed by Triple O Studio & architectureRED for the NGO CRY, was dedicated to the “Child Within You (Us)”, even the child within us adults.

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The skin made of fabric being put in place. Strings were suspended from the scaffolding, on which people could tie the helium balloons, as seen below.

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Conceived as a double-layered cuboid, the external footprint of the installation was 24’ x 24’ and the inner enclosure carved out a space of 16’ x 16’. The outer layer of the installation was made of scaffolding and the inner one was made of a rising stack of school benches of 6’ x 2’. These benches mimicked the typical benches of a school, portraying the school as the walls that cage a child. The scaffolding was covered in parts with fabric, leaving gaps and ‘windows’ for the passerby to peek inside and perhaps sneak in, even if purely out of curiosity. Red was the chosen colour for the installation: the colour of passion, of the passive aggression within us to break norms and create change.

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Of the people who engaged with Stack It Up, a majority were children who enthusiastically tied balloons and ventured inside.

The tower rose to a height of 24’ but in reality, it was an endless stretch of space to the sky, as a web made of tied, taut and woven strings intersecting at various angles, was all that covered its mouth. This cobweb of strings represented the cobwebs in our mind, which often leave us torn between who we wish to be, and who we are told to be. The message clearly was to break free of them. Like the sky that lay beyond the webbed mouth of the installation, the sky’s the limit for every child’s imagination.

 

During the three days that the installation was open, people were handed helium balloons which they could tie to the scaffolding from the inside. These balloons would cling to the roof made of strings, making one realise how the behemoth of conventional education stops us from achieving what we are capable of. On the closing evening, all the strings were cut loose and the balloons were sent sailing into the air from the tall, broad cuboid. The display dramatised the idea of unleashing a child’s dreams and aspirations from the rigid frameworks of education.

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Installations in the public domain are meant for people to interact with them and with each other – given this mandate, Stack It Up succeeded.
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The sky is the limit, all one needs to do is overcome the cobwebs of conventional education – as signified by this string roof.

Urban Art can challenge ideas of social convention but it is perhaps a little lofty to think that every onlooker who passes by, gets the idea immediately, or as clearly as he/she would through a 30-second ad film or a 3-hour movie (which are also art). But installations such as these are important as they invite the onlooker to indulge in their visual and physical experience and, more importantly, participate in building them instead of being a spectator. People take part in it even if they don’t know what they are building, out of this collective sense of being a part of something larger than themselves. If not all, some, or rather many, are bound to ask “What does this represent?” or “Why is this here?” and that, perhaps, is mission accomplished.

Information:
Project: Stack It Up

Area: 576 sqft
Location: Marina Beach, Chennai

Architects: Anupriya Subbian, Biju Kuriakose, Kishore Panikkar, Tahaer Zoyab
Design Team: Apoorva Madhusudan, Rizwan Khan, Madhu Sudan, Malavika Rao, Santhosh A L, Vamsi Krishna

Typology: Urban Design / Urban Installation
Date of Initiation: 23 November, 2012
Date of Completion: 25 November, 2012

Text: Anusha Narayanan

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