One of the advantages I found to being out in the bush was that I was no longer “Jessica Herron, UX designer who knows these programs and has that experience/degree” but was simply “The Artist”. So when Dr. Spelman, the professor I was traveling with, and Diane McTurk, the elder lady who long ago started the Lodge with her efforts to rehabilitate giant river otters, turned to me and asked “are you interested in designing Diane a house?”, I could indulge the architecture bug I rarely get to itch and say “YES I WOULD.”
It was challenging in that I had to design it to be built ‘in house’ by the Amerindian men who worked at the Lodge, in the materials they commonly used, for Guyanese weather, in the building traditions that Diane favored. But it was easier than a pro job because I could count on the common-sense knowledge of the men building it (who I talked to during the design process) to make sure that all the parts were properly supported. So I didn’t have to actually know anything about physics. To make up for that though, I used structural measurements of the buildings which were already being used at the Lodge. Since, well, those buildings hadn’t fallen down.
It was a blast. I did four structure designs in total, and am hoping I get to see at least the partial completion of some of them when I go back.
As we turned in the bend and the vines overhanging the water parted, an island of flat leaves appeared in the jungle before us. Well, not an island actually, although to look across the giant lily pads it seemed that with a simple step out of the river boat, one could walk across the pond as easily as the many cranes and frogs did. We paddled ourselves over the great greenery, as there was no trail through it, the thorns of their lipstick undersides scraping against the steel hull. We parked ourselves next to a closed blossom and proceeded to pull out the rum punch to sit and drink and wait for night to fall, when the blossom would open like a lantern of white in the twilight, cricket-heavy darkness.
I was so excited, I nearly fell out of the boat.
I recently took a trip to Guyana in South America, and got the chance to stay at Karanambu Lodge, a fantastic eco-lodge set in the heart of the bush/jungle, which also functions as a place for scientists and students to go to study the incredible biodiversity. Though I didn’t have as much time to do art (and I found my materials sadly inadequete to express the brilliance around me), I’ll be helping them make a wildlife-tracking app (more on that soon, I’m sure). I’m also planning on returning next year with plenty of oil paints and more time, so that I can properly make the attempt to capture it. I will fail -nature outdoes all the artists in the end- but maybe I’ll get something of it.
In the meantime, a little pen-and-ink work of the main lodge house.