immersive experiences: top - tim percy; middle - lauri uldrikis; bottom - stella skoumbridis



ross mcleod + jordan lacey


The TRANSLATION studio involved the development of proposals for both permanent and temporary exhibitions within the Immigration Museum of Victoria. Informed by the affective and synaesthetic concerns of contemporary installation art, the project interrogated the movement between cultures, languages, memory, senses and media in order to develop atmospheric and immersive museum environments. In this undertaking the sensitivity toward the way specific cultural issues were represented and how people’s immigrant stories were told was of primary concern.

The project involved the investigation of the idea of translation, the process of transformation involved in the movement from one idiom to another. Within the project the act of translation was carried out in many ways; on one level it referred to the multicultural background of Melbourne’s population and the way in which language, customs and cultural practices both endure and are transformed as a myriad of ethnicities are integrated within the larger culture. On another level it referred to the translation of ideas and techniques through specific media (such as light, sound and video) and the appreciation of the opportunities for creative expression offered when different media are combined.

The studio sought to actively question the role of design practice within contemporary society and provide a platform in which to engage in a vast array of ideological concerns and speculative projects. To this end, students spent the first half of the semester developing a theoretical and technical base for the project and spent the second half of the semester developing a set of ideas around how the concept of translation can be explored within the context of the Melbourne Immigration Museum.

Students were asked to design interventions, installations, exhibitions or events that referenced Melbourne’s multicultural heritage and which envisioned its future. The studio entertained concepts of personal and cultural identity and ways in which they may be documented, explored and expressed. These investigations were staged so that the initial collection of immigrant experiences and the development of ideas around cultural difference (and similarities) would then be translated through the use of photography, video, sound recording and the creation of 1:1 immersive environments.

As a cornerstone of the investigation into ideas of the 'immersive', the studio explored concepts of sound from philosophical, acoustic and technical perspectives. The intertwining of the three approaches involved spatial explorations embracing phenomenological descriptions of sound, acoustic analysis of the reverberant qualities of sound propagation and recording/editing techniques that emphasised and interacted with these understandings.

Ultimately the studio projects engaged in the transformation of sites within the Immigration Museum in which the themes of the studio were expressed through built environments that incorporated audio visual, light and sound elements as a complete spatial entity. The affective dimension within the approach to these exhibitions encompassed both the nature of the relationship established with the community groups who were represented in the exhibitions and the bringing to life their stories though the design of environments that engaged an emotive and empathetic response in the audience. The housing of exhibitions that promote diversity, inclusiveness and openness within the old Customs House building (an architecture that represents colonial/repressive intent), heightened the potentials of the exhibitions to attain a resonance within their ambiguous surroundings.

cultural memory: top - katharine kavanagh; middle - lauri uldrikis; bottom - natalie peluso



Rather than addressing the (re)design of the museum in a large programmatic and organisational way, each student developed an individual brief and response for the installation of an ‘interactive intervention’ within the museum. This intervention could be located anywhere within the museum however the nature of the intervention and the choice of the particular space in which it was to reside, had to be intrinsically linked.

With this in mind the student’s proposal needed to respond to the physical, cultural and curatorial dynamics of the space and its context. The designed intervention had to challenge the way the museum space is used and establish a unique relationship between the display, the building and the audience. In coming to terms with these ideas the students researched exemplars in the world of art and design who have engaged with museum environments. Concurrently concepts such as relational aesthetics, participatory design, immersive environments, designed atmospherics and the affective turn were studied and discussed. This undertaking raised questions about the presentation of information and the nature of subjectivity.

In unpacking these issues the idea of ‘interaction’ was a key one. Students were asked to consider how the relationship between the viewer and the thing being viewed can be expanded and to think about what potential interactions could occur between the audience and the display. They were asked to explore how the audience can have a deeper connection with the information being communicated. These intentions could be approached through the rearrangement and re-contextualising of the museum’s current displays; the development of participatory approaches to the collection and display of material; the production of specific short term events or performances; the employment of digital media in the creation of atmospheric feedback loops; or the creation of affective immersive environments that engage the audience in a visceral way.

The idea was that through the ‘interactive intervention’ innovative approaches to the presentation of issues surrounding immigration in a museum environment would be uncovered. The goal was to extend the subject matter, focus and content of the museum so as to address contemporary issues in immigration and multiculturalism. This involved subverting the traditional agendas and practices of the museum, (such as the nature of ‘collection’, the use of the glass vitrine and the role of didactic text explanations), while still being referential to the museums agenda.

It was important that the ‘interactive intervention’ worked as part of the whole museum. With this in mind the student’s designs needed to compliment, reinforce and reflect the total experience that a visitor would garner from the museum. In this undertaking they had to carefully consider the museum’s audience, who are: primary and secondary school groups (age 8 – 18); local people (age 18 – 80); and international visitors and tourists. The challenge was to develop strategies that could engage with such a large cross-section of people, knowledge and interests.

In developing their design the students had to also carefully consider the manipulation of light and the control of the sonic environment in which the installation would be situated. It was expected that there would be an active ‘aural dimension’ to the installations. This involved the development of expertise in the production of multi-track sound scapes.

Ultimately the students were asked to develop a presentation strategy which communicated their specific research, design brief and proposal. The presentation could include the production of scale drawings, three dimensional renders, models and 1:1 prototypes. In addition to these modes of design communication, the students were encouraged to engage in the production of videos, lighting effects and soundscapes that utilised the potentials of the audio visual system within the School’s AV Lab, (the site for the final presentation). The goal was to create a presentation that both informs the viewer of the design’s scope and detail while creating the spatial, sensory and emotive qualities one would feel in the museum space.



site immersion - rae fairburn


our sound - natalie peluso


top - please touch - katharine kavanagh; bottom - voice chamber - alice maszsczyszyn



Students: Timothy Percy, Alice Maszczyszyn, Laith Quryakos, Alicia Becerra, Rae Fairbairn, Benjamin McPhee, Erfan Amini, Natalie Peluso, Laura Murphy, Stella Skoumbridis, Lucy Cousins, Georgina Dawson, Lauri Uldrikis, Claire Harrington, Katharine Kavanagh, Pia Twyford, Caroline Dale