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The Chicago Biennial Kiosk Design for the 2015 biennial was a collaboration between myself and Alia Mortada. Our design drew on the verticality of Chicago and was inspired by the gridiron pattern with which the city is organized, integrating spines but also dead ends, encouraging a linearity at some moments but also an intersection of functions and movements within its grid. We were also inspired by the spirit of playfulness of the Columbian World Expo in 1893 with its introduction of ferris wheels, diaromas and other sources of amusement. Our kiosk sought to evoke this spirit of playful interaction and movement within its structure.

The grid of our kiosk can also be read as a three dimensional interpretation of a game of “chutes and ladders”. The ancient Indian origins of this game invite the player to move through a gridded board which is covered with symbolic images, the top featuring gods, angels, and majestic beings, while the rest of the board was covered with depictions of animals, flowers and people. The ladders represented virtues while the snakes represented vices. The moral lesson of the game was that a person can attain salvation (Moksha) through doing good, whereas by doing evil one will inherit rebirth to lower forms of life. In the original version, the number of ladders was less than the number of snakes as a reminder that a path of good is much more difficult to tread than a path of sins. Presumably, reaching the last square represented the attainment of spiritual liberation from desire. In the original version, the dice are fatalistic. You must accept the destiny set out for you as determined by the dice.

In our version, we’ve eliminated the fatality of the dice: our player is more in control choosing which ladder to climb up with and then, which ladder or “vice” to bring him/her down. It is therefore a game of ladders and ladders. The journey to the final destination in our kiosk still maintains some resonance however with the original game, with dead ends, birds and trees as you rise up to the kiosk.

Project Team: Manar Moursi. Alia Mortada, Mohamed Rafik