If you dig a hole deep enough... is an installation by New York architects LEVENBETTS for The Solutions, the 2011 Chengdu Arts and Design Biennial, currently running through October 30 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China.
The impetus for LEVENBETTS' installation was the children’s adage in America that says that if you dig a hole in the ground deep enough you will emerge on the other side of the earth in China. The trees, the root balls and the water they share encompass the idea of China and America on opposite sides of the planet, sharing the same earth. The installation embodies basic ideas about coexistence and the ability of design to offer and celebrate various perspectives.
Project Description from the Architects:
If you dig a hole deep enough... consists of a 7 meter in diameter round disk lifted at an angle out of the floor of the building with three trees right side up, three trees upside down, T(h)ree up T(h)ree dn, and a generous set of bleacher stairs, that in the opening events of the exhibition were used as seating for the talks by the artists and designers who were featured in the biennial.
The installation consists of the lifted round disk, that is a counterpoint to the orthagonality of the former electronics factory building, the composition and interplay of the elements that sustain the trees – three right side up (China) and three upside down (America), and the stairs that engage the individuals who come to see and interact with the installation. This idea of using life sustaining elements (infrastructure) is central to our work. And in T(h)ree up T(h)ree dn the infrastructure consists of transparent spheres of soil that are suspended in the structural grid, provide oxygen, and are able to be watered. There are also grow-lights that are hung from the structure to provide light for the trees to photosynthesize and for the visitors to see the piece, especially those on the underside with the upside down trees.
If the piece were to be installed in the US, the relationship would be flipped with the US trees up and the Chinese trees down. This is not a comment about who is on top economically/politically, etc. but is about the perspective of the viewer/visitor. In this regard the visitors are presented with a choice and two similar conditions: a stair up onto the disk, upon which one can sit next to the trees, and a mirrored platform on the floor of the gallery upon which one views the upside down trees.
We find these ideas of life sustaining systems as design elements, places for people to engage with an installation, relative perspective (what’s up and what’s down), and choice - how to experience the piece - all to address the central challenge of the brief of the Biennial, how design can address rapid social change. T(h)ree up T(h)ree dn, poses questions about relative perspectives on design and place without providing a “solution”. In this manner the installation avoids declaring a doctrine or a manifesto while remaining open to the perspective of the visitor.
Project: Installation for the 2011 Chengdu Arts and Design Biennial
Design Team: LEVENBETTS, David Leven and Stella Betts, Principals, Sungteak Lee, Project Architect
Location: East Chengdu Music Park, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Dimensions: 7m diameter x 3m high
Structural Engineering: Robert Silman Associates, PC: Nat Oppenheimer, Principal
Fabrication: Project Managers: Jenny Chou and Su Qiu, Fabrication Shop: Longshao-Long Hui Ming
Find more photos of the installation in the image gallery below.