The Cloud Maze

Between 4th and 17th March, 2019, the event Design Shanghai at Xintiandi Design Festival began as scheduled. The topic of this year is to return the origin of social interactions-meet and acquaintance, which tries to encourage people to meet and grow in the real social interactions by a series of ways such as interactive installations, visual arts, and forums.

RSAA / Büro Ziyu Zhuang was invited to design the interactive installation at the entrance of Xintiandi, and this is the origin of The Cloud Maze. The design team is looking forward to presenting the metaphor of a series of questions such as the meaning of individual in the city, the meaning of communication between people, the interpersonal behaviors, and the new urban space image built by human information. What’s more, the designers expect participants to find answers to their hearts.

The installation is four meters high, with metal mesh curtains hanging in circular paths from a structural frame. The curtains form a glossy surface, that filters the sun and creates a twilight. The grey inside world is defined by both the real pattern of the mesh, as well as the virtual, projected pattern of the shadow. This ambiguity is related to the meaning of a maze and links the material and construction to its plan.

The road ahead is unpredictable when you explore a city, it can lead you to your destination or to a dead end. This installation reflects on that experience but does not look like it from afar. Instead, it evokes connections to traditional Chinese landscape paintings and the shape of mountains and clouds. This is a metaphor to the urban Xanadu.

The people who are trapped in the maze overlap with the mountains and clouds and integrate into different forms.  Mountains are formed by rock and soil, yet look like clouds. The combination characters for earth and cloud in the Chinese alphabet forms the character Tan.

The installation follows the archetype of a maze, a circular labyrinth with a diameter of five meters where people will – depending on the path they choose – miss or meet. Depending on the height of a section, different floorplans will present themselves, offering different ways through the labyrinth. This means people of different age and height will have different possibilities of interaction and contact in it.

Different for everyone, the maze blocks views or offers paths, encouraging people to explore the ups and downs of the folds of the form. The maze is a microcosm of the city, where people meet or separate. Over the last decades, strangers more and more met and became acquainted online. Nowadays people are looking for ways to reverse this trend, and return to real life and re-recognize themselves in this metaphorical city.

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