Elly Ward / The Great Glass Divide / April 2012

A couple of months ago, Elly Ward got in touch with me on twitter as she had seen me tweeting about a stay at Living Architecture’s Shingle House in Dungeness. Elly was going to be the guest at the house immediately after us and I think she was just checking up to see what kind of state we were leaving it in. Elly is currently studying MA Architecture at the RCA alongside a friend of mine, Digory Macfarlane. Digs was part of the team that designed and built the Southbank Bandstand I shot last year. Small world!

Anyways, as part of her project this year, Elly has been working on an Illusion Booth – once she started telling me about it, I was dead interested and offered to take a few photos of it for her. First up, here’s Elly’s description of the project (click "Read More" for more images and info)…

‘The Great Glass Divide’

“This project was a 1:1 material test for an architectural programme of reflective and allegorical therapies at the propositional ‘Moral Rehabilitation Centre’."

"It employs a simple adaption of the low-tech but extremely effective Pepper’s Ghost stage trick – invented in the 1860s but still used in many museums and theme parks today, most notably in Disneyland’s ‘Haunted Mansion’ attractions."

"In this version of the technique however, the audience witnesses a ghostly reflection of itself rather than that of hidden actors. This ‘constructed illusion’ will be staged at various moments throughout the proposed building – in hidden rooms, corridors and any number of nooks and crannies – affording guests a multitude of opportunities to reflect on their own lives, perhaps with the addition of stage sets and props to suggest how life could be very different… (but the ghostly kiss was just for fun!)”

Shooting the booth was a bit of challenge – working in low light, trying to avoid my own reflection and trying to get everyone to pose in such a small space. That said, we had good fun playing around with the illusion and Elly even roped in her fellow MA Architecture students, Anthony Engi Meacock (of Assemble) and Jonny Wilson as well as Dean of Architecture, Professor Alex de Rijke for a shot to. I met up with Elly and she took me round to the booth, constructed in a fairly unassuming spot behind the canteen at the RCA where everyone parks their motorbikes. I quite like the idea that people pass the booth all the time but have no idea what’s inside – it’d be great to install hundreds of them dotted about in cities, half hidden, and monitor the reaction.

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