Sounding Islands

Gandong Cai, September 2016

GSD studio work 

Advisors: Eelco Hooftman, Bridget Baines




​指导老师:Eelco Hooftman, Bridget Baines



This was a studio full of excitement. Every student has their separated topics that never overlap with others', but match the topic of the Possibility of Island. My idea was constructed on two ways:

1. Base on the study of Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Map, I put forward the issue of upside-down the "figure/ground" relationship between land and sea, and established the argument of "sea=island" after I drawing a new map with oceans in the center. The new ocean-center map became the base of the following mapping study;

2. I discussed the inevitable prejudice occurred in the mapping process, which was result of distortion of projections and the political inclinations, and suggested that we should use ear instead of eye to perceive the world. Then I draw a sound map in compare to visual map, and decided my second theme which is sound.


My study included the introduction of Sonar Technology into the action of protecting marine animals from the threat of be trapped during the ocean garbage collection; the re-evaluation of Sound Mirrors as new landscape, which were utilized before the invention of Radar by military during World War I for detecting enemies; and the renovation of an abandoned military tower on the Thames Estuary that had been occupied by illegal broadcaster as radio center, and transformed this infrastructure into a sound tracks lab with multi-scalar sounds broadcasting in different floors.


Maunsell Forts is a series of military towers. It reminded me of the Outlook Tower, which is a six floors tower in Edinburgh designed by Patrick Geddes. Geddes put a world map on the first floor and a Europe map on the second…… on the top floor there is no map but an outlook platform for visitors to enjoy the view of the city. Such as how I inverted the idea of visual map with sound map, I tried to bring the experience of the Outlook Tower in the Maunsell Fort, and made it into a five floors sound tracks lab with three floors on top of water and two below: from the top to the bottom floor, visitors can experience the sound of multiple scales, from Thames Estuary to the English Strait, to the Ocean Gyres, and to the world.


By doing this I tried to metaphorically replicate a journey of "becoming blind": as you walk down stair what you can perceive with your eyes becomes less, but instead you can hear "further". The juxtaposition of the Outlook Tower and the Maunsell Forts generated a series of dramatic comparisons: between the action modes of "climbs up" toward the sky and "dives down" into the ocean bottom, and between the emotion of fulfilling the desire for control by expanding eyesight and the curiosity reinforced by expanding hearing.

整个课程每个学生做的东西完全独立且各不相关。我的思路建立在两个方向上:1.通过研究富勒的地图,提出陆地/海洋图底关系颠倒的可能,绘制出海洋位于中心被大陆包围的新地图,从而确立“海洋即是岛”的命题。海洋中心地图也成为后续大量mapping工作的底图贯穿整个studio。2.同样是从富勒地图出发,通过分析地图产生偏见的不可避免性(一是无论哪种地图投射技术都会产生视觉形变,二是地图几乎都是政治产物,不同地图的构图中心,边界划分都是带有强烈政治倾向的),提出放弃用视觉而用听觉感知地球,并通过收集来自世界各地的声波绘制听觉地图(sound map),确定另一个主题:声音。

接下来的工作基本就是围绕这两个主题展开的,包括提出用声纳技术帮助海洋生物摆脱收集海洋垃圾时对它们产生的潜在危险;战争时期在雷达未被发明前用于侦测敌军的Sound Mirror被作为一种声音景观被再利用的可能性;以及把泰晤士河口的废弃军事塔(曾在战后作为私人电台信号发射站)改造成具有展示多尺度声音主题的声场试验馆。

Maunsell Forts是一处军事塔楼群。在开始构思改造设计的时候我联想到了同样位于英国,由盖迪斯设计的Outlook Tower。这是一个六层塔楼,盖迪斯在一层放置了世界地图,二层则是欧洲地图……越往上登塔者将会看到更小尺度的世界,直到顶层天台的能俯瞰爱丁堡的观景台。正如颠覆视觉地图创造声音地图,我尝试把塔楼想象成一处声场试验馆,设置海面上三层海面以下两层的展馆,从顶层到底层分别播放塔楼尺度–泰晤士河口尺度–英吉利海峡尺度–海洋旋涡尺度–以及地球尺度的声音,而这些声音的声源都来自于我前期的研究成果。

通过这样的设置,我想用隐喻的手法模拟一场从视觉到听觉缓慢切换的“失明者”体验之旅:从顶层观光塔到底层暗空间,能看见的越来越少,能听见的则越来越“远”。把Outlook Tower和 Maunsell Forts并置起来,得到的是指向天空的“向上”攀登和指向海底的“向下”探索的行为模式对比,是扩大视域的控制欲与延展听觉的好奇心的情感模式对比。