OCEAN Design Research Association

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a_Drift Time Capsules

a_Drift Times Capsules - 1998
Finalist - Design Competition organised by The New York Times, New York, USA

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Project Team: Johan Bettum, Michael U. Hensel, Prof. Birger Sevaldson, Kivi Sotamaa, Tuuli Sotamaa, 
Specialist Consultant: Tero Kolhinen, Institute for Metallurgy, Technical University of Helsinki


In 1999 the New York Times organized an invited competition for the design of a Time Capsule required to last 1000 years. The content of the capsule was to be specified by the readers of New York Times as a selection of items that would communicate our culture at the close of the 2nd millennium. OCEAN north’s scheme aimed at facilitating the design of an unlimited amount of variations on one generic design solution. Each one of the designed capsules was to consist of an inner and an outer capsule and was configured around two inner chambers nested within the inner ceramic capsule, with the form of the chambers emerging around the specific set of items contained within. This was achieved by the use of a digital animation method that draped surfaces around each specific set of items, evolving in this way the form of the inner capsule. With each new set of contents a new form emerged that made each inner capsule highly individual while remaining part of the same family of derivations. The outer titanium shell was then draped around the inner capsule and its form adjusted for aqua-dynamic performance. In this way the capsules themselves would be carriers of information able to convey the co-related design sensibility and technological and material manufacturing capability of our culture. After their production the capsules would be transported to the Antarctic to be buried in the ice in different locations. The capsules would be contained in the ice until natural glacial movements and melting would dispatch them into the seawater. A monitoring system, which would register the movement of the capsules in the oceans, once they were released from the ice, would be installed in New York. Signals would be transmitted from the capsules by a system empowered by seawater batteries. The future of the capsules would depend on their possible release from their entombment in the ice and their respective journeys with the oceanic currents. Subjected to forces of transience and change, one could no longer predict the destiny of the capsules. Thus, while the scale of the receptacles is at the opposite end of that of a monument, the trajectory of each would be monumental in its vast trajectory of movement across space over time.

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Critics Voice: Herbert Muschamp The New York Times Magazine 5 December 1999:

'Italo Calvino devotes his fifth of his ‘Six Memos for the next Millennium’ to what he calls multiplicity – the idea that literature should encompass the variety, breadth and emotional richness of the modern self. The OCEAN [NORTH] project embodies something close to this idea. Using computer software, the designers have moulded a series of three-dimensional shapes that would result from wrapping a thin skin of titanium around ceramic capsule containers. The shapes would be different because the contents would be different, but all would be smooth, tactile things embodying doves, porpoises, whipped cream, fine sand, powder snow, the curve of a woman’s torso painted by Ingres.'

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