Connect with nature, discover adventure

27. April 2018

Sky-Pod is designed to provide a premium quality sleeping experience in the trees

Sky-Pod, the story so far. By Mark Leahy...

The original idea for a hanging pod structure was conceived by our designer whilst working at an artist’s collective space in Peckham SE London and was made from recycled military materials. The idea was to create a mobile space that could be deployed throughout the city of London, hung in unusual places and spaces as a place of rest, allowing people to stop, sit and chat with others, as part of a socially engaging street art practice.

The design was based on the Victorian crinoline (which was a latter day adaptation of the Elizabethan farthingale), a semi-rigid frame construction normally worn under a dress to give it form.

Our designer from Sky-Pod learned the art of crinoline making whilst studying textile design at The Scottish College of Textiles before going on to design ballistic body armour systems commercially in the security and defence industries.

Using the skills and materials from different projects was the basis for the form and function of the pod, with the first pod being made by our designer from surplus MOD webbing and the second one from surplus materials form the Italian Carabinieri and the UN Peacekeeping Force, hence the two different shades of blue.

The pod was taken to various locations to help people engage with their outside space and to meet and engage with others. It was used as a meeting space sometimes to discuss what is good or bad within a community, even housing faith leaders who would sit inside and hear the confessions of their own communities.

The structured shape of the pod allows for a round-table type seating arrangement where everyone is or can be positioned equally, which actually helped when engaging with gang or youth culture. When two members of rival gangs both first sat in the pod they were not expecting the level of movement that first greeted them upon entry to the pod. This led to them both momentarily setting aside their differences as they both got to grips with their new moving environment, leading to them talking civilly to each other, adjusting their positions, communicating their thought and findings until they were both installed comfortably into the plump cushions.

Although this only took a moment or two to figure it out between them it appeared to be the perfect ice breaker, a new environment to experience and master. It was at that exact moment of equal unease that something special appeared to happen, a hither unknown connection now connected, through meeting, one of the most important things in a city, to meet others.

So strangers meeting for the first time can all feel equally unsure or uncomfortable, for a brief moment before learning quickly how the structure operates, the advantages to all for the redistribution of weight or space within the pod, before learning to exhale and relax, merge into the pod to enjoy and experience its Omni-pendulum motion.

The pod has hung in a myriad of places and spaces, galleries, museums, art venues and festivals including the British Museum, Tate Modern, Regents Park, The Geffrye Museum, Babington House and The Lighthouse.

On tour it was nicknamed by the press “the hanging sofa of Milan” and was used as a learning tool for disenfranchised kids to engage around the idea of building dens and tree houses with surplus materials from their own environments, as part of the “what is peace” project at The Lighthouse in Glasgow.

So after many years of observing how people engaged with the pod, and taking on board the common comments and feedback the Sky-Pod team decided to develop a mobile version. We took as our starting point its use as a two person tree tent, suitable for camping trips from the back garden to the great outdoors. As many of our crew knew what they didn’t like from previous camping products made from synthetic fabrics we felt that we wanted to design a better camping experience using a natural breathable fly-sheet that encompassed the right amount of light and shade, being that we had all experienced the high temperatures and lack of shade with synthetic nylon or polyester fly sheets. We opted for a natural cotton canvas flysheet in the knowledge that we would sacrifice weight for comfort, which would allow it to keep you cooler in the summer over synthetics.

Our camouflage pattern has been designed through dying and screen printing processes to create those areas of light and shade within the Sky-Pod. This allows for a gentle morning awakening after a peaceful night’s sleep with the sun rays randomly permeating a stained glass type effect inside the Sky-Pod.

This last decade of designing and field testing our various pods has helped us gain the knowledge we now have to create what we feel is a pretty unique experience. One of the best feelings is when you first climb the ladders into a pod, as many experienced during our participation with The Tree House Gallery Project in Regent’s Park. It’s a bit like riding a bike, you need to find the balance points as the structure moves and reacts to your movements.

As well as being practical for entry / exit the base hatch evokes memories of building tree houses, climbing up the ladder, pulling it up behind you, closing the hatch and escaping to total freedom.

On our first field trip to the Scottish Highlands, it felt reassuring to be hanging out of reach, even if it was only from highland cattle and wee nippy Shetland ponies. We experienced some wonderful new vistas from fantastic vantage points too.

We have also incorporated an internal ladder to help with adjusting the fly-sheet or to climb out onto a tree, as we used to do as kids.

Unbeknown to us at the time, each time we were conducting field testing we were actually experiencing the healing elements of the forest i.e. forest bathing. Perhaps more accurately, forest floating.

Images: Courtesy of Sky-Pod


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