The Unknowable Story of Tram 51

Tram 51 runs through the centre of Brussels from the North to the South. For the research I focused on the passengers, trying to read their stories in their faces. Everyone is so unique, and their being together on this tram, as that moment, is a statistical miracle. Who they are, where they are going and where they have come from – the chain of cause and effect that brought them together, in this snap shot moment on Tram 51, can never fully be known. Perhaps this is why strangers do not talk to each other, there is simply too much information to know and we must respectfully decline to be overloaded with everyone’s story.

And yet, the statistical miracle, this unspoken togetherness of strangers, is the thing that most intrigues me:  passengers weaving their stories together for a few stops before going on on their separate ways – I wanted to celebrate this time-sculpture of inter-twined lives. This unspoken, intangible, and yet palpable, psychic mass of information that saturated the togetherness of these strangers makes up this unknowable story of Tram 51.

To establish the concept and the feeling I began making a poetic sculpture of a woven city where the life stories of these strangers flow, bend, inter twine and finally merge into the city itself. I then moved on into making models where the passenger’s stories began and ended with the stops they got on off the tram with. This fits the concept of the unknowable information, because users only get a glimpse; a sentence, of those individual stories.

After experimenting with handwriting I decided the concept was communicated clearer if each diff­erent person’s story was written with a diff­erent font. In terms of material and printing methods, laser-cut plywood was an interesting option but I settled on Perspex with plotted letters and a semi-transparent coat of white paint. This gave the best results in terms of casting shadows during the day, and being able to be lit from beneath during the night.

After researching di­fferent forms and locations, I felt that the location for the Story of Tram 51 must be a tram stop along the tram line itself, and therefore went for the linear form. The final result is a space, made of light and words, where strangers can come together and acknowledge the invisible information all around them.

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