Setting Sail at Seattle Design Festival

Emily Evenson photo
By Emily Evenson

Emily believes housing is a basic human right. As an architect, this has drawn her to clients and projects that pursue affordable and equitable housing whenever possible.

She has a passion for high performance buildings and attained her Certified Passive House Design credential in 2017.

As we emerge from the pandemic, so many of us are reimaging our lives through the lens of our collective, and individual experiences over the past 18+ months. Many are burdened with the heaviness and pain of losing a loved one, losing the patterns that used to govern our days, or losing jobs, homes, and social connections. As we rebuild our lives in the post-pandemic world, it can be helpful to turn to a structure, a methodology, to guide us.

As designers and creators, we believe that a thoughtful design process can extend well beyond the creation of buildings or places or things. It can be a process through which we interpret our own emotions and experiences.

Setting Sail concept drawings.

Origami boat design lunch party.

We invited participants to:

  1. Write their thoughts onto colored paper that represents their mood.
  2. Consider expressing sentiments, poems, stories, or memories.
  3. Then fold their paper into a simple boat form, or something more intricate. Participants were the designers, so they got to decide.
  4. Set their boats free onto the model boat pond, with their thoughts tucked safely inside.

The acts participants took in this activity – reflection and contemplation, documentation, creation, and release – mimic those of a thoughtful design process. As architects we follow a similar procedure: assess/analyze, document, create, and finally, we let go of our creations. Ultimately the things we design and create are for the enjoyment and use of others. As we see it, the model boat pond temporarily became a symbolic representation of our participants’ creations living a life beyond the creator. Together, the boats bobbing in the breeze was a representation of the many participants – each an individual contributing the greater whole.

Colorful boats in the pond represented the thoughts, feelings, and intentions being released by Setting Sail participants.

This simple exercise can be used in other areas of one’s life. What other emotions or feelings are we holding on to that we could let go of? How might we utilize a design process to live a life of intention and set the emotions that are no longer serving us free? These are the questions we posed with our installation ‘Setting Sail’ which we hope our participants pondered during and after their participation.

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