I just arrived in Sheffield to attend Sheffield Doc/Fest. There are a lot of amazing documentary film and VR projects showing at this years festival, I look forward to going over the catalog over dinner tonight, it’s amazing how VR has captured the interest of the documentary community, Sheffield changed the name of their new media “Crossover Summit” to “Alternative Realities” this year staking a claim that VR is the next best thing. We shall see.
As I walked out of the Sheffield railway station and began my walk up the hill to Jurys Inn where I’ll be staying this week, I was thinking about what it was like to walk alongside the spectacular sculpture that greets me as I walk up the hill towards the center of the city. The sculpture brings together the city’s historic resource of steel (helping to make it a powerhouse of the industrial revolution) with a dramatic cascade of water. The noise from the water offers a dramatic yet calming effect as you transition from the non-place of the railway station to the place that is the bustling academic town of Sheffield that is home to two Universities. It’s a sublime welcome to the city or welcome home that’s both visual and aural.
I learned that the sculpture was created by a Sheffield-based design team working in collaboration with Keiko Mukaide, a glass artist originally from Tokyo now working in Edinburgh. The elegance of her work reflects her Japanese roots coming together with her Royal College of Art education. According to public records the whole sculpture weighs approximately 60 tons.
It’s fascinating to think that city leaders had a vision that the walk between the city center and the railway station would benefit from this spectacular experience. Yes, public sculpture matters, the built environment matters, but we often don’t see the dividends since it’s hard for anyone to monetize this kind of experience arriving in a city, but it’s an important reminder of the value of intangibles in our lives. How many people come home to Sheffield or arrive in Sheffield for the first time and simply feel better as they walk from the train station to their destination? It was fun to see the reflections of people walking by on the shiny stainless steel with water falling over it abstracting the reflections.
In subsequent blog posts I’ll write about some of the films and VR projects I experience at the festival.