Walking down the street in Keskuskatu, Helsinki, a city in Finland, you may think you’re in a Dr. Suess book. The city is the site of a popular urban structure called “Chatroulette IRL.”
The structure, designed by Paja&Bureau and NEON, is a cluster of brightly colored cones. Each cone is large enough for a person to fit under it, and is connected to the other cones with a bright yellow tube.
Much like the website Chatroulette matches random users together via webcam, the structure matches random passersby via yellow viewing tube. When inside the cone, users can rotate a section that allows a window into the tube. When both tube windows are opened the two cone users can interact.
“The aim of the installation, like the original Chatroulette, is to encourage communication between strangers,” NEON wrote on their website.
The sculpture was a collaboration with 4th year Arabia School students for Helsinki Design Week in 2018. The theme for that year’s design week was trust. The sculpture exemplifies the theme of trust by encouraging it between strangers. It takes a certain level of trust to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before.
Although the project was a collaboration with children at the Arabia School, the striped structure draws in people of every age group.
NEON writes, “Through this simple activity, the artwork creates countless new interactions between strangers that otherwise would not have taken place. These interactions will create a new sense of trust between the participants.”
Striking up a conversation with a stranger may seem daunting, but stepping out of the streets and into these cones may just form a meaningful connection you can’t get anywhere else.