Sphere One


Nature of Collaboration

Collaboration really works well when the two parties, in trying to resolve their own element of the project, influence the other to improve the overall design. In the case of Brandub, architect Tom dePaor had come up with a wonderful version of the ancient game, carving the pieces from extruded peat, a material of which he is fond. Although the ancient found specimen was square Tom had in mind that the board of his modern version would be round and perhaps that’s why he invited Sphere One! We wanted the ‘board’ to act as a surface on which to play but also bag for the pieces when not in use. We tried a cotton drawstring bag. We tried a canvas circular piece that zipped to a half moon. We sourced Irish linen and tweed. We spent endless rounds experimenting with bar-tac stitching and button holes to mark the positions. We tried Sam Brown closures to make a military looking telescope holder. We tried string and punching metal eyelets but everything seemed a bit complicated. One day we realized that the beauty of the playing pieces was that they fitted together and that the real pleasure was in simply rolling them in fabric, as one might make a sushi roll.

There were 2 problems - the 13 pieces did not fit together as one column. One was always left out. Then Tom realized that if he cut the Brandub figure to have 2 ‘male’ ends it would centrally connect all the other pieces…and the new shape was really beautiful and balanced to boot. Eureka!

Secondly we needed to prevent the pieces from falling out either end. I sourced especially long rubber bands, which harkened back to the coloured ties on bales of turf briquettes that De Paor had used at the Architecture Biennale and the entire thing began to sing! We still hankered after a fabric that could be cut raw edge without fraying. Anna Hofheinz at de Paor suggested felt and it set us to thinking of mover’s felt, the type to protect fine furniture. Finding ‘The Felt shop’ in Dublin who could make natural felt to spec further simplified and added to the tactile pleasure of the piece.

The punctures don’t need any further decoration save to mark the central one which we baptized in red nail varnish. For a military-esk game it’s apt that it looks like a bullet wound.

Chatting to Tom about collaboration he said insightfully “They say that all real discoveries happen at the interstices or overlaps of disciplines. I think that when it works, the magic is here .”