Metaphrasing Solitude by Henri Vanhaerents explores the role of design during times of social isolation. The project came to life during the global pandemic which encouraged introspection and ultimately led to the exploration of how “self” expresses itself in a context of solitude.
The past global pandemic forced us to isolate. The lack of stimulation from the outside world forced us to retreat into our own bubble. This was a catalyzing factor that encouraged self-reflection where I focused on further developing my own fascinations. It forced me to become one with myself and explore how that “self” expresses itself in a context of isolation. This became the driving force behind this research project together with 3 other main building blocks.
My fascination with developments in the space industry, in which Mars is increasingly prominent, is the first building block. The numerous developments imply the emergence of new futures and design possibilities in which I focus specifically on the context of isolation.
The auto-ethnographic approach I used, is a second building block. This is an approach that advocates a personal way of designing and shifts the focus of the research from an objective to a subjective angle. For instance, the designer is asked to study his own context, thus involving his memories, intuition, and own experiences in the research. This is visible in the design via influences from car-tuning culture and the digital design- and production methods.
The third building block, speculative design, helps reincarnate a scenario of social isolation and places it in an alien context. Since the designs are a communicative carrier of its genesis context, this scenario comes to life through the interaction between the user and the objects.
The speculative story outlines a living environment where essential elements of the interior are missing. This scenario unfolds into a series of physical objects based on the limitations imposed by the scenario. It led me to create a stool, a lamp, a book rack, and a coffee table that additionally functions as a mirror. Besides that some add-ons further allow the objects to be "tuned" in ways that provide new functions and rituals.
The modular configuration of the designs creates an intimate form of interaction between the user, the environment, and its objects and ultimately explores whether design can serve as a soothing agent during isolation. This is done partially by functioning as a form of entertainment.
The entire assembly of objects creates an anthropomorphic design that allows for emotional connection, something I deemed of great importance within the isolated context. This research not only redefines our relationship with the future but is also relevant to current issues here on Earth. Learning to cope with isolation is linked to themes such as new forms of urbanization and small-scale living.