Gaslight District, Cambridge, CA
Gaslight District, Cambridge, CA
A poetic messaging system inside a giant luminescent arch turns peoples’ attempts at communication into music and light.
Passersby are invited to deliver a greeting or message at one of the three mic stations arrayed at the arch’s base—to their friends, a stranger, the city, or the river. (“Hello River, how are you?”) Voices travel up the archway in shafts of colour, transforming into a playful message of music and light. While voices intermingle to create a singular harmonic moment, the wave-sculpted façade that serves as Hello, Hello’s backdrop reflects the constantly evolving scene before it.
When someone offers a greeting or message into one of the mic stations, their voices are modulated through a vocoder into lyrical electronic phrases, the words then transposed into echoing notes from a piano. Meanwhile, shafts of light travel up the archway carrying the message. In reconstructing the message, Hello, Hello accounts for the speaker’s tone, cadence, and duration, rendering every message as unique. When multiple voices communicate together, patterns of light and sound mix into one chorus. Sometimes it may feel like a voice is dissolving or floating away on the air, reminding us how our own bubbles and biases can sometimes get in the way of how we hear each other.
In our Babelesque world so often confined to the size of a screen, we wanted to create a new ritual that reminds people the importance of physical connections. A ritual that emphasizes the music and harmonics of how we communicate, both with humans and the environment around us.
Inspired by a kids’ game of broken telephone, where the inputs and outputs don’t always exactly match, Hello, Hello is all about presence, the non-verbal, and what’s missing from our online communications. By using the human voice to create musical bridges between people, it’s an invitation to connect beyond words.
Hello, Hello is all about presence, the non-verbal, and what’s missing from our online communications.
Hello, Hello is one of two Daily tous les jours pieces commissioned for the Gaslight District by HIP Developments, as part of their vision for “Joy Experiments”—interventions designed to foster community through play.
The Gaslight District is a mixed-use development built on the site of a 19th century foundry that was one of the engines for the region’s early industrialization, when the historic centre of Galt (now part of Cambridge) was known as “the Manchester of Canada.” Today the region’s industry leans more high tech, with manufacturing in technologies like robotics and satellites, while also being home to the University of Waterloo, one of Canada’s leading institutions for advanced scientific research.
For the team at HIP Developments, all proud Cambridge locals, the district is something of a legacy project, an ambitious effort to revitalize their historic downtown and make it a place of connection and culture for the larger community. Hello, Hello is installed in the plaza that serves as the district’s main entrance, at the foot of a bridge that spans the Grand River. Making it a gateway also to the city itself, while reminding people of its context in the natural environment.