William Feuerman, or Billy as he’d prefer, is a “visual person”. So, in 2010, when his sight was affected by a rare form of stroke that damaged the nerves in his eyes, Feuerman’s interpretation of the world shifted.
“Being partially blind, I was much more aware of the space around me,” says Feuerman. “This awareness of space became a key component to my work and the work that I’ve done since then.”
That work, says Feuerman, plays on defining the invisible spaces of our urban environments, the ones that go unnoticed, and transforming the ways we interact with them. His aim, ultimately, is to alter our perceptions of the world around us.
Feuerman explains, “I like constructing an experience in an incredibly pre-scripted way. It’s not just about looking at it, it’s about interacting with it, occupying it, inhabiting it. It has strong implications on what architecture can potentially be.”
Feuerman points to one of his first urban installations – Street Light Disco, where mirror-ball banners lined the light poles in Martin Place, reflecting light during the day and illuminating the dark passageway at night. More recently, Feuerman created Urban Chandelier. Here, over 6000 reflective triangles were hung, with precision, from carbon fibre rods suspended above an alleyway in Chattanooga, USA. The idea was simple – design an architectural experience in which people can enter to escape the distraction and hum of urban existence.
Feuerman says, “We are all in a way blind – as we are tied to our technology.” Taking a brief moment to look at the buzzing cafe around us, people are at tables or walking to and from ensconced in their mobile devices. They’re completely oblivious to the goings on around them.
Feuerman’s focus, however, is clear: “This is a major problem that exists in the urban environment. How can architecture make people more aware, more attentive of the space around them?”
He’s particularly fascinated by dense urban environments (he confesses it’s the New Yorker in him) and creating experiences where “people stop, think about what they’re looking at, making them more aware – even just for a moment.”
While his work is incredibly playful and beautiful, Feuerman is clear to point out it’s “not beauty for beauty’s sake”.
He says, “By using architecture as a device, architectural elements can exist that don’t just beautify the city, but actually impact the psychology of the city. And that it incredibly valuable.”