A Soul Gym is public furniture that supports positive emotions in public space.
This original prototype was created for the Market Street Prototyping Festival in April 2015.
The furniture supports people in doing power poses (angel wings backdrop) and other postures that are emotionally beneficial (a throne.) A full soul gym can have additional pieces.
Step 1: Early Prototype
Using IKEA furniture from the thrift store, painted gold with various gold paints from the hardware store (spray paint, mostly) - a simple throne was made (chair on a table) - it was very precarious, but having it at an event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with a lot of people trying it was helpful for understanding the interaction and needs of the Queens, Kings, Rulers and other Benevolent Dictators who would eventually take the throne. Made cardboard wings with handles, which helped people play with the interaction elements, and gave a lot of insight into what was needed.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/linepithemate/15292107839/in/album-72157647308130144/ Full photo set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/linepithemate/sets/72157647308130144
Step 2: Design
Here are some of the original sketches for the street prototype. My sister, Halley Sikes, used her civil engineering skills to figure out where the tipping point and wind load of the throne would be, and where we needed to put weights and sand bags. Since people on the street would be sitting on it in unpredictable ways, we needed to make sure the throne would be strong. She also looked at our hardware to see if it would hold.
Our CCA mentors showed me UniStrut, and we made a model with balsa wood and labels to think about the construction of the final piece. Ultimately, unistrut was expensive and overkill for an installation that would be up for 3 days. A friend's friend Natasha, who is a builder, suggested that I adopt carriage bolts in drilled holes and redwood posts, since the piece needs to be installed and deinstalled. I had built a loft once for my apartment so I knew I could do this, and that it required minimal tools.
So then I tried to use AutoCAD to design this, but that didn't work, so I instead made orthographic drawings in Illustrator.
The design needed to be able to not have too many pieces, and be not too heavy or hard to handle so I could carry it up and down two flights of stairs in the event that all my friends would flake out on me at the last minute - since we would be loading onto a truck, and carrying each of the pieces 1 block for installation on the street in the middle of the night. Ultimately people came together in the stress of installation, but I definitely wanted to avoid this and make it easy on us.
Step 3: Sourcing and Redesigning
Using a grid and a spreadsheet, I calculated all of the lengths of wood, and then simplified and simplified the hardware so that the throne would be more affordable. I found out that HomeDepot would deliver to my house for only $20, which is amazing because I do not drive and needed delivery.
We had $2000, so I spent $2000. Didn't have extra personal money for this, so stuck to the original plan. Build the piece in my living room because this is what I knew I could control. I don't drive.
Step 4: Building & Installation
Here's some images of building and installation.
MATERIALS (Throne and wings)
Print 2x12, 2x10's
Pine 1x12, 1x10
Plywood (sando), 1/4” - wings
Plywood 3/8" PVC pipes (metal pipes would be better)
Home Depot Solar Lights
Carriage Bolts, nuts and washers
Machine Screws and nuts - various sizes
Strong Tie, angle brackets of various sizes and plates
Wood Screws, 1.5", 2", 2.5"
Ralph Lauren Metallics Gold paint
WINGS These are shapes cut out with a CNC router (which I learned how to do at TechShop.) They were mounted on the throne after they were painted gold.
THRONE The throne was way more complicated, as it needed to hold weight and not tip over. It was built on a plywood base, weighted with about 250 pounds of sandbags under the front step. It consisted of a back wall, seat, step/front, and sides. One of the sides was mounted with hinges so that we could store things inside the throne during the festival.
Step 5: Adjustments
On site, there were some issues such as using a cordless drill vs. an electric drill meant that some of the screws wouldn't undo, and we basically had to engineer in place to add extra supports to make sure the throne would be secure.
The graphics and props were made to be reconfigured. They were mainly tools for observing human behaviors and interactions, giving more insight for future designs.
Step 6: Observations & Notes
People need to be encouraged to "please sit" - most people figured they could sit on it, but not all.
The height of throne made for a relaxing sitting experience, but for assuming dominant poses, the feet need to be supported.
The more text there was to read (some of which was necessary for assisting with the framing of how the piece was positioned within the ongoing prototyping festival)
Maximum capacity seemed to be 6-7 average weight adults. 2-3 year olds could get onto the seat if they were really determined.
Dogs could get on the throne as well.
There was a request for a wheelchair accessible experience.
The piece works great during Friday Happy Hour.
Works well with buskers providing extra music, but this can set a certain tone that can persist for hours which ceases to be interesting after a while.
The wings worked perfectly.
Gold paint if tagged might be expensive to keep replacing.
If you have questions or want to help transport the Throne to have it installed somewhere, please reach out.
There are a lot of videos and images on Flickr: