Home / Away

After arriving back on Canadian soil after our three-week course abroad, everything seemed to feel very normal. It was strange to think how quickly we can slip back into our everyday routines, like flicking a switch. Having travelled a fair amount, the feeling wasn’t new to me but it always seems to spark some reflection. I think in a way, the natural transition is because we leave a part of ourselves there, the part that is so bohemian and free and whose heart is just too full and soft for the grind of reality. However, while the transition seems natural on the surface, deep down we feel that missing self. When finally, after weeks or years we look back upon those places through our memories, it always seems to be this ideal version soaked in beauty, like a filter that makes everything glow.

My final piece is meant to focus on not only these emotional reflections, but to explore the difference in design tactics between these settings. Our design training at OCAD often conforms to a certain visual standard which may not resonate in areas where design is less accessible. Of course, this was a major factor from the beginning of the course, where our objective was to implement participatory design. With this in mind, the goal of my final project is really to explore the relationship between the away self, the home self, the away designer and the home designer with a personal and introspective view.

The physical setup of the piece so far consists of a largescale print, running from wall to floor, consisting of colorized images of Costa Rica’s tropical flora and the flowing sea which meets the coast. A translucent material such as organza/mesh will be stretched slightly above the print, forming a kind of wave shape. The mesh overlay is meant to act as the metaphorical ‘veil’ in which we view our times abroad through memory. Two stones hold the veil in place, and in the corners near the wall there are two bottles labelled coconut water but with minimal graphics reminiscent of design practiced at home. The bottles also pay homage to our project objective of managing waste. In the original concept, an additional component such as postcards or posters was to hang on the wall above or beside the installation, which would further display the contrast of institutionalized design. Depending on how elaborate the final installation is, this may or may not be included but must remain cohesive in some way to its counterpart.

The piece that has manifested so far is more of a scaled down prototype with ample room to grow and evolve. Between now and the exhibition, I intend to experiment with scale, materials, transparency, lighting and added graphic elements such as typography in order to increase visual interest and viewer engagement.  Home / Away is an art/design installation inspired by the relationship between travel and home and the transition from one to another, both as a designer and an emotional being.

[side note] in the images I have provided a rough sketch for possible future updates to the final. This includes plans for up-scaling, added components, lighting, projection and other installation formats.

img_7337 img_7340img_7338img_7345 img_7559

Strategies & Sunsets Unseen

Today was another work day for the crew. As the project due date nears, people are scrambling to get their side of the project ready for the home stretch. We start with a debrief at 9:30 am, where everyone discusses what they’ll be working on for the day. Compared to a couple days ago, panic has slightly declined as people get their directions laid out more clearly. Everyone has completely surrendered to the inevitability of the fast-approaching deadline.

I’ve taken the role of designing the visual identity for the community, which basically entails a logo for El Cocal, that can go on signage and so forth. I tell the group that I’ve narrowed it down to three directions, on which I will need some feedback. We agree to meet back at 1:30 with print-outs for an informal critique. We scatter off to our respective holes, and hunker down for some aggressive keyboard punching.

Our meeting later that afternoon is impressively constructive. Along with the branding prototypes, there are trailer mock-ups, way finding signage, a compost shelter rendering and a layout for the calendar which will also include trash pick-up schedule. I’m happy to receive some solid feedback on my designs so I can finally move forward. We all receive useful suggestions and everyone comes away feeling relieved and motivated. We get back to the keyboard slapping to create a presentation that will never actually happen.

img_6958img_6961 img_6966 img_6970

I fall into a flash nap while my so-called friends go watch the sunset without me

(I did not actually view this in person)
Surprise, another birthday… Happy birthday Octavio!


Dia Uno: First impressions of El Cocal

Today the OCADU x GVI crew took our first trip to El Cocal, the community we will be working with for the next three weeks. Once again, the day is crazy hot and muggy as we head off on foot to the boat terminal which will take us across to El Cocal. El Cocal is situated to the north-west of downtown Quepos on a peninsula just off the coast. Though actually connected by land, it is often referred to as an island for its difficulty accessing on ground. The trip across takes just a couple minutes and with 4-5 boats in constant circulation, the wait time is almost nothing. The cost for the trip is 150 colones, or about 30 cents Canadian. Although the distance is quite minimal, I was surprised by how easy and cheap the crossing is. Hearing about the slow increase in tourism to El Cocal, I have to imagine that sometime in the future the drivers may capitalize and start to charge more for visitors. From the boat landing, we walked straight down the main – and only – drag of El Cocal. Immediately, we pass by the schoolhouse just as a group of kids are being released. After a short four-hour school day, the children rush home eagerly, serving up smiles and the odd greeting as they pass.


The scenery is pretty much what I expected; a dirt road laden with muddy potholes, the homes are bare bones and some are more run down than others. Overall, it’s a quaint and welcoming setting. The presence of garbage is evident but not overwhelming from the curbside view. Eventually we reach a clearing in the homes and the beachfront emerges, but we continue on down the road to satisfy our rumbling tummies. Lunch is provided by long-time resident and GVI collaborator Eneyda, and it hits the spot as home cooking always does. Eneyda goes on a long-winded account of her traveling to and living in El Cocal, of which I’m confident some heavy-hearted details are lost in translation. I’m amazed to hear about her journey from Nicaragua to El Cocal where she raised twelve children, some of which already have grand children of their own. After lunch we head to the community center located directly in front of the beach clearing. We have a quick huddle about the story behind the center, and half-way through a doggie enters the circle and tries to distract me with cuteness.
We walk to the beach and are met with a glorious stretch of sea and sand, hardly contested by any I’ve ever seen. The warm water drifts lazily up the beach in long, drawn-out intervals and we wet our feet. I’m surprised to see the beach is almost deserted, save for a few locals kicking around a soccer ball. A few of our own soccer enthusiasts join in for quick game of pick up. Near the water the beach is almost immaculate, but further inland the garbage becomes visible once again.
We venture back to the road and across behind the houses opposite. Here is where the mangrove forest begins and the backyards here are more depicting of the waste crisis. Large piles of yard waste mixed with discarded packaging line the border between the properties and the edge of the mangrove, which will likely remain inanimate for quite some time. We trek back to the boat landing to head home amidst a sudden burst of downpour.
After all, El Cocal is quite similar in person as I imagined from the descriptions prior, but a few things did come as a surprise. It actually is quite smaller than I pictured, only having one road all the way down, though I imagined a few side-shooting streets. I also expected a few more tourists, although I suppose we are slightly beyond peak season. To be perfectly honest, I thought the garbage problem was going to be worse. Yes it is there and yes it is noticeable, and I’m probably being naive, but I didn’t really notice anywhere that was absolutely over-flowing with waste. This comes with an added sense of optimism, and the opportunity to strike before things get out of hand. As I was saying on the walk back, I feel sad for the issues facing El Cocal, but it’s impossible to be in a bad mood. An attitude that seems to extend to the locals as well! Anyway, that’s my blog post folks, stay tuned for more from the rest of the crew!

Hasta Luego!!!!