Citizen Ouse

Citizen Ouse is buoyed by the community that surrounds it.
We refer to Archimedes’ Principle of Floatation to pose the question – can a vibrant neighbourhood raise a vessel? This project will have the Ouse morph from a vessel of utility to an interactive space that reacts to her surroundings.

any object, wholly or partially immersed in a stationary fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.”

– Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 250 BC)

Top view of the installation (credit: thr34d5)

social buoyancy

From its birth in 1934, Ouse has been contributing to Skipton’s social life as an industrious neighbour. Recently, Ouse lives more as a recluse – observing the daily happenings of Hackney, but far from as engaged as she could be. Let’s immerse Ouse back into the local area to become a bustling bellwether of social cohesion and harmony in Hackney.

Our proposal lies in the reading of the Borough social health through the boat’s behaviour and movements. The CITIZEN OUSE project aims at placing Ouse as a non-human citizen in the community with a mission to actively mediate social interaction and social cohesion using her own language.

Rendering of the installation (credit: thr34d5)

non-human citizen

CITIZEN OUSE is a public space destined to be observed, engaged with, enjoyed and understood as a living member of the community. A language is created by varying the air pressure that is blown into the recycled pipe pavilion canopy. Ouse is alive. She breathes and reacts depending on real-time data analytics from social media. She evaluates the local news and conversations as optimistic or detrimental to social cohesion; Ouse shrinks if her neighbours are upset. When Ouse perceives optimism and feels confident, she opens her arms and offers a welcoming place for social talks and meetings.

One can clearly see how Ouse is doing by looking right into her eye. A fountain sits centrally in the forum constructed inside her represents her eyes – the windows to the soul, and will mimic the behaviour of the structure that hovers above it. This small body of water represents a communal water source; traditionally a meeting point, a place for cleansing or daily rituals.

The responsiveness of CITIZEN OUSE structure will create a relationship with people. The Hackney community can talk to her and converse with her – influencing the conversation via Twitter. The interaction creates a bond; a point of interference between engaged citizens. Not only is CITIZEN OUSE a fun and local intervention, but it subverts the newsfeed and questions the relevance of social media as a trustworthy media.

Inflation process simulation (credit: thr34d5)

lectures & curation

Given increasing loss of the commons and public space, the equilibrium between what’s shared and privately-owned is in danger. CITIZEN OUSE is a ludical interactive installation encouraging people to the floating forum to attend lectures and debates on social resilience, community development and civic pride.

Constructive voices will be welcomed aboard CITIZEN OUSE to stimulate conversation and debates. A goal is for sustainable initiatives and strategies to be born from this – at the very least, new friendships struck in the neighbourhood. Positive provocateurs that would benefit CITIZEN OUSE include Matt Ford (Activist), Wail Qasim (Writer, Critic and Campaigner), Ash Sarkar (Editor), Larry Achiampong (Artist) and Liv Wynter (Spoken-word Artist), given their substantial roles in their community, for fighting against exclusion and provoking thinking on the development and enhancement of community cohesion and social resilience.

aesthetics & technical details

The space will mix the industrial heritage of Ouse with the familiarity of a public forum and an alien intervention in the form of a transparent canopy. There’ll be no transformation or masking of the rust or ageing patina of the Ouse. The materials will remain honest, like the vessel’s original use. A forum is a spatial topology that has been present for millennia. The foreign, freeform covering acts as a cultural perturbator – drawing attention and communicating the new life of CITIZEN OUSE.

The forum is to be mounted with conventional woodwork, utilising reused wooden pallets in its construction. Two pumps will operate; one to pump air into the canopy pipes and another to dictate the water level of the forum fountain. Reusable piping will be sourced from expert supplies, such as R-Use, Matabase, or Batiphoenix. The air pressure will be controlled by a microcontroller connected to a live Tweet analysis and control system. The canopy covering will be sourced from Serge Ferrari, a producer of highly durable skins. These will be reused after the exhibition period.

The pavilion component of CITIZEN OUSE has been designed to facilitate an extended afterlife. The responsive canopy could be relocated to festivals or design and architecture exhibition to educate on sustainability, the interaction between living and non-human citizens and to promote social cohesion.

To download the project presentation: Citizen Ouse


Adrien Rigobello: Project Management, Design Researcher
Wael el Allouche: Creative Direction
Paula Echeverri Montes: Design
Tim Leeson: Design
Mladen Babic: Computational Design
Namur Matos Rocha: Computational Design

Marie Louise Gjerlev, Bram van den Berg (guest collaborators): Graphic Design