In Her Footsteps
A public installation celebrating the rich heritage and glory of the now forgotten Sweet Auburn using the silhouettes of successful women from Auburn Avenue, the birth place of the Civil Rights movement.
- Class Project: Social Justice and Design
- Team of 3
- 8 weeks duration
- Skills: Raspberry Pi, Circuit Design, Wood
My role: Collected research for comparative analysis, brainstormed ideas, narrowed down feasible solutions, constructed the final prototype
We formed a group of three because of our desire to make a public installation. I really wanted to make something tangible. We brought to the table installations we had seen or liked and categorized them to help better understand our options. The axis above goes from Most to Least Interactive and from Ordinary/Disruptive to Created. We were most attracted to the Disruptive and Most Interactive projects. The idea of taking an everyday object and giving it more meaning and depth seemed to have alot of potential.
Once we decided that we wanted to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary we need to figure out how. We wrote down as many ideas as we could in 1 minute and then sorted and discussed each one. The groups identified were Games, Segregation, Signs, Buildings, Objects.
- Signs – Road signs, stop signs, stickers
- Buildings – Newspaper, Life Insurance, Barber shop, market
- Objects – lamp post, parking meter, traffic light, door knob, door mat, water fountain
- Game – wayfinding, path/trail
- Segregation – disruptive
We explored each of these areas through idea itterations as you will see next.
From our observations, the most consistent population on Auburn is Georgia State students. We wanted to create a story line that follows the most used street paths to engage the current population. Focusing on the intersection we wanted to tell a story with the crosswalks.
Remembering the history of Auburn is important but in order for Auburn to become reincorporated as part of the City of Atlanta it’s image has to change
Create a symbol for Auburn that promotes its unique identity and draws people to attractions
Inspired by “Touched Echo” in Germany, a public installation accessible to everyone, both residents and visitors
Auburn has tons of street lamps
Play with contrasts: Light and Dark, Black and White, shadows
Final Design Iterations
Decision time! Time constraints made us have to narrow down the project idea quickly. We liked certain elements of all of our ideas so it was a matter of coming up with something that everyone could support. First we eliminated anything with wayfinding because of scope and time constraints. We wanted something interactive, hidden yet obvious, and historically relevant.
Concept: Mirroring the Past – silhouette of a historical figure activated by motion sensors
The shadow idea originated from the lamp post concept because we were intrigued by using a natural element, a shadow. Daily objects drove us to have a lot of conversations about hidden sensors that would trigger vibrations, sounds or images. Preserving the historical importance of Auburn was also something we all valued.
Opening the Door to the Past
A shadow would be displayed on the doorway of businesses on Auburn. The shadow would be black from the outside but a full color image of the person on the inside of the shop. The figure would correspond to the business owner of the past. For example the coffee shop was once the Daily World Newspaper, the first African American newspaper in Atlanta, the owner was William Alexander Scott II.
The participant would have to mirror the position of the silhouette to trigger the motion sensors. It would have been difficult to make this accessible to everyone because of height and size differences. We wanted children to be able to engage with it too.
Walk through History
Connecting the participant through footsteps. Walking in someone else’s shoes is a power metaphor.
- Needed to be easily transportable
- Decided on Audio for ease of install and ability to change content
- Micro switch not a force sensor because of cost and weight considerations
- Realistic height of person
- Sturdy base to trigger switch/sensor
Selecting Characters for Content
- Initially based on the successful business owners of the past on Auburn including: Alonzo Herndon, Cassie Cunningham and William Scott
- Shadows could be placed on the actual building of their previous business.
- Selected Mattiwilda Dobbs because acutal recordings were available
- Final decision for all female silhouetts because of the lack of noteriorty for their actionsthan men
Having space for all three proposed figures in the same area makes it more cohesive. The women selected were not all tied directly to a business or building. We selected the Apex Museum Entrance Walkway for the following reasons:
- Celebrating African American history which aligns with Apex’s mission
- Protected space from vandalism
- Ability to expand display for more silhouettes
- Open to the public
- Well situated on Auburn
- Draw more people into the museum