Learning by doing

Aug 09, 2017

SALA students design and build an installation at this year’s Powell Street Festival

Macro Maki at the Powell Street Festival

Five SALA students have designed and built an installation at this year’s Powell Street Festival, Canada’s largest Japanese Canadian festival and Vancouver’s longest running community arts celebration. The students, Arkgo, Alex, Divine, Jivan, and Yilang, have worked tirelessly to make their winning design a reality. 

Their journey to the Powell Street Festival began when they won a competition challenging them to design a structure that encourages interaction at the festival. Macro Maki, their winning design, consists of a custom built bento box stage, handmade sushi costumes, and an aerial camera supported by enormous chopsticks.

“The competition for the Powell Street Festival required that we have an installation that was engaging and have some type of community building in it,” said Divine. “So we decided to make some costumes so that people could become sushi and capture these experiences in photos. In that sense, we can engage the audience with the built material and make it really interactive and fun.”

The installation was a terrific success, as festival goers lined up to don the sushi costumes and lay down on the bento box stage to have their photo taken by the aerial camera. However, constructing Macro Maki required the team to transform academic knowledge into practical experience, with a new focus on building in addition to designing.

“When we started we were already very comfortable putting documents together, being Master of Architecture and Landscape Architecture students,” said Alex. “But I found that there’s a difference between what we learn in school and reality. It’s more about working together with the client, not so much about pretty drawings. It came down to actual dimensions on how this is going to be built.”

The team of students worked with a range of mentors in the construction of Macro Maki. At Bing Thom Architects, they were supported by directors James Brown and Shinobu Homma. Fashion designer Jade Su, from the Academy of Modern Art, helped the team create the sushi costumes. They also received guidance from Gary Smith and Abaton Projects, Emiko Morita from the Powell Street Society, and SALA’s own Mari Fujita, who oversaw the build process from start to finish.

“I think every good achiever is often inspired by great mentors,” said Arkgo. “We feel extremely lucky to have our partnering mentors during the design process. They provided us with valuable guidance by sharing their professional opinions and resources. This opportunity allowed us to further advance our design thinking in relation to project management and learning by doing.”

Macro Maki was also supported by donations from Hapa Collaborative, Shinobu Homma, Kikuye Komori, Julien Fagnan, the UBC Centre for Advanced Wood Processing, and Structurlam Products LP.