Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
An artist has crafted the housing equivalent of ships in a bottle.
It’s as if Amsterdam-based artist Rosa de Jong took the traditional ship-in-a-bottle idea and turned it on its head.
For her latest ongoing project, “Micro Matter,” de Jong replaced the bottle with glass test tubes and ships with intricately handmade housing structures barely the size of your palm. Inspired by a desire to “go into the art,” she built a series of landscapes that include skyscrapers resting on a puff of cloud, houses sitting on mounds of rocks, and tents shadowed by towering trees. The tubes stand vertically, and in some pieces, the buildings look like specimens suspended in mid-air, as if the land were floating in the sky.
“It can still be abstract, but I really love it if there is space inside, a small world to go to,” she wrote in a press statement sent to reporters.
De Jong used a range of materials from the outdoors: sticks brought in by her cat, sand from the Monument Valley, and rocks from the campsites of the Caribbean island of Curacao. As for the design of the buildings, which are made using cardboard, de Jong says she mostly winged it. “Nothing is planned,” she tells CityLab via email. “I just look at it while working on it, put it in a tube, see how it looks, maybe change something.’” Each piece, she adds, inspires the next.
At first, she’d start by sketching each design, but she often found herself lost in trying to transfer tiny details from the paper to the actual model. Still, each building is filled with intricate bits. Everything from the roofs to the wires and greenery that surrounds each building has been meticulously put in place with tweezers. Dissect one of her tiny cottages and you can see that the tiny details are anything but simple.
Originally, de Jong had wanted to make miniature cities with trains running through them. But she eventually abandoned the project after becoming fixated on perfecting the gears that made the trains move. They would take her days, and de Jong says she’s never been fond of long-term undertakings.
So, armed with a handful of test tubes that she’d bought on a whim, she settled on a shorter project. Each piece in her “Micro Matter” series took her less than a day to complete, which meant that she could promptly see her creations come alive. That, she says, was most important to her.
The project is ongoing, and so far, de Jong has made more than a dozen pieces. Until it gets “boring,” she wrote in her statement, “I still feel like there are more worlds to create.”