Deep in Es­to­nia’s woods, na­ture gets a mega­phone

The China Post - - FEATURE - BY MARIS HELLRAND AND MARY SIBIERSKI

De­sign stu­dents in Es­to­nia have come up with a novel way to help na­ture lovers en­joy the sights and sub­tle sounds of their coun­try’s vast and cher­ished forests.

The group strate­gi­cally placed three mas­sive loud­speak­ers in the heart of a re­mote wood­land in late Septem­ber to am­plify its mur­murs, and hik­ers are both awestruck and inspired.

“It was tricky to find them, but once we did they were quite im­pres­sive,” says hiker Sten Wei­de­baum, who brought his kids along to en­joy the site at the Pahni Na­ture Cen­tre that skirts the bor­der with Latvia.

“Their light wood in the dark green for­est at first looked like a UFO land­ing spot,” he added.

“It re­minded us to lis­ten to the sounds of the for­est and to pay at­ten­tion to all other senses as well,” he told AFP, adding that “they also seem to work as a mega­phone for one’s own thoughts.”

Asked by univer­sity su­per­vi­sors to cre­ate a “for­est li­brary,” the team of de­sign stu­dents in­clud­ing Bir­git Oi­gus put on their think­ing caps.

“I got the idea to cre­ate an au­dio li­brary,” said the 21-year-old Tallinn na­tive who dreamed up the wood­land loud­speak­ers.

“It’s a place that re­minds us to lis­ten to the sounds of the for­est and take away peace and fresh thoughts,” she told AFP.

Ac­cord­ing to Hannes Praks, a pro­fes­sor at the Estonian Academy of Arts who over­saw the pro­ject, the in­stal­la­tion’s de­sign cre­ates “a unique merged sur­round-sound ef­fect.”

“We placed the three mega­phones at such a dis­tance and at a suit­able an­gle, so at the cen­ter of the in­stal­la­tion, sound feeds from all three di­rec­tions,” he told AFP of the whop­ping mega­phones, mea­sur­ing three me­ters in di­am­e­ter.

Forests blan­ket 51 per­cent of Es­to­nia, a tiny Baltic state of 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple that is renowned for its IT savvy af­ter giv­ing the world Skype, e-vot­ing, e-res­i­dency and, most re­cently, Trans­fer­Wise.

Sur­veys sug­gest that Es­to­nia is one of the world’s least re­li­gious coun­tries — a 2005 Euro­barom­e­ter poll found just 16 per­cent be­lieve in God — but many here pro­fess a deep and abid­ing love of na­ture, par­tic­u­larly forests.

Estonian au­thor Val­dur Mikita de­scribes the pro­ject as a “slightly ex­ag­ger­ated meet­ing of na­ture and cul­ture.”

The Estonian Art Academy’s de­sign quest for a “for­est li­brary” was orig­i­nally inspired by his book en­ti­tled “The Lin­guis­tic For­est.”

An Estonian best­seller, it ex­plores in an ec­static and play­ful way the deep con­nec­tion of na­ture and cul­ture by re­veal­ing how the Estonian lan­guage is rooted in na­ture.

“I have a the­ory that the ex­cep­tional num­ber of tal­ented com­posers in Es­to­nia is the re­sult of the spe­cial sense of hear­ing that orig­i­nates from liv­ing in the for­est,” he told AFP, evok­ing artists like Arvo Part, the world’s most per­formed liv­ing com­poser.

Like na­ture, mu­sic is key to Estonian iden­tity. Here, con­duc­tors are cel­e­brated like rock stars at mas­sive song fes­ti­vals where up to 30,000 singers per­form to­gether on an out­door stage.

Whim­si­cally dubbed “Mother Na­ture’s mega­phone” by hik­ers, the in­stal­la­tion is made of sim­ple ma­te­ri­als like wood and nails, but mim­ick­ing na­ture, its de­sign is both hi-tech and geared to crea­ture com­fort.

“Ma­te­ri­als-wise the in­stal­la­tion is made of larch and the board­ing is cut at the cor­rect an­gle to am­plify the (sound) fo­cus­ing ef­fect even more,” says Tallinn-based ar­chi­tect Aet Ader, who men­tored stu­dents in­volved in the pro­ject.

“We did have to con­sult an acous­tics engi­neer to get it right.

“You can sit down com­fort­ably in each of the mega­phones. Their sides of­fer sup­port for your back ... and frame the sky on one side and moss and blue­ber­ries on the other,” she told AFP.

“It’s an ex­tremely sym­bolic ref­er­ence to the sense of hear­ing and to the process of lis­ten­ing ... it might be enough to in­spire peo­ple to lis­ten to the cos­mos of the for­est.”

AFP

This pic­tures taken on Sept. 17 near Pahni vil­lage, Es­to­nia shows king-size wooden loud­speak­ers built by in­te­rior ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dents. It is a large-scale acous­tic in­stal­la­tion that am­pli­fies the sounds of the for­est.

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