Forest for the Trees (work in progress) is an SUV that will be retrofitted into a camera obscura. It will be open to the public at big-box store parking lots flanked by woods in Loudoun County, VA, a DC exurb.  Inside the SUV, participants will hear recordings from the forest and see adjacent woods sublimely projected onto the interior of the windshield.   Costco shoppers will view a suburban edge forest in the dreamy way that is only experienced inside a camera obscura.  This magical tool, as witnessed in mockups, helps people drop their guard and feel wonder and peace in the presence of nature.  By leaving the parking lot and entering the SUV, participants see the forgotten forest that was before them all obscura diagram for web Camera Obscura Diagram

A camera obscura utilizes basic principals of physics, transferring light and images from the outdoors through a lens to an internal surface of a darkened space.  They require no electricity.  They were historically important in the development of photography and to the understanding of optics.  Camera obscuras have been used since antiquity.  The earliest historical record of the camera obscura was from 470 – 390 BC.

inside for webVisualization of Camera Obscura Interior – SUV interior overlaid with photo from camera obscura mockup

plato parking lot

plato shoppers web

Forest for the Trees is part of a suburban art initiative called Exurban Rethink, a series of art interventions to influence development patterns in one of America’s fastest growing suburbs – Loudoun County, an exurb of DC.  This project utilizes art and information-sharing to help leaders/residents contemplate suburban reinvention, bridging academic research and on-the-ground implementation.

Suburbs, home to 69% of Americans, are the largest per capita greenhouse gas contributor.  As one of America’s fastest growing suburbs, Loudoun suffers from car-dependency, resource-intensive construction, inequality, and ecological degradation. Yet there is opportunity for bold vision – a suburban built environment that powers itself, cleanses itself, transforms waste, provides wildlife habitat, produces food, deeply satisfies inhabitants, and fosters equality.  Exurban Rethink includes three art interventions and a slideshow/discussion forum to reshape this DC exurb’s future development.

Timed to coincide with the revision of the County’s Comprehensive Plan that will influence its next 20 years, art and information sharing will help leaders/residents contemplate suburban reinvention. The project will bridge visionary academic research and local on-the-ground implementation.  It is influenced by MIT’s Future of Suburbia Initiative that is inventing “land tenure models…to ensure that suburbs become the frontier of innovation…” and answer what “innovations and productive systems will be embedded within suburban development to allow for self-sufficiency… a net producer of food, water, and energy?”

Exurban ReThink Art Interventions

  • Forest for the Trees