Conference to explore impact of interaction on architecture

A cloud of inflatable light-emitting spheres floating above London and a game which saw Internet users at the Royal Opera House play in conjunction with a group of teenagers in Mile End Park will be among projects discussed at the Interactive Architecture 2010 conference.

The conference will be held on 24 June at London Metropolitan University as part of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

It aims to investigate key themes in interactive design, and the future of the built environment and its ability to respond to people in or around it. The event will be split into four strands: sensory, metaphysical, art and play, and experiential architecture.

Alex Haw, director of consultancy Atmos, will present his work on The Cloud, as part of the experiential architecture strand. The Cloud is conceived as a lightweight transparent tower, composed of inflatable light-emitting spheres, which would display real-time information.

Haw says The Cloud design lost out to Anish Kapoor’s Arcelor Mittal Orbit tower in the design competition for the Olympic Park site, but says there are hopes it could be installed in London’s Hyde Park or at the Millennium Dome.

He says The Cloud design ’has pixels on the outside, like on a building’s media facade, but is also an internal experience – like a visor on the world’. He adds that much of the interactive architecture developed at the moment comprises ’gallery pieces or installations’, as opposed to in-depth spatial developments.

Matt Adams, co-founder of Blast Theory, will be looking at work including the consultancy’s You Get Me project, from 2008, in his presentation in the Art and Play: Community and Interaction strand. You Get Me was a game-based project which saw participants interacting in both the physical and virtual environments. Adams says, ’What we are interested in doing is considering how you might look at mobile devices as constituting a cultural space.’ He adds, ’It’s a question of looking at how you can create new social architecture – places where people congregate and interact with each other. In the same way that people doing parkour reshape architecture, this is people doing the same in the digital space.’

Adams adds that he wants Blast Theory’s projects to be as far-reaching and effective as possible, saying, ’What we’re interested in is the ubiquitous availability of technology – not just in the high-end stuff. We deliberately steer away from the uber-geeky, early adopter people. We’re interested in large-scale communication.’

Michael Spencer, managing director of consultancy Sound Strategies, will be speaking in the Sensory: Sound and Light strand. Spencer says his talk will specifically focus on sound design in hotels, following on from a two-year project his consultancy carried out for Intercontinental Hotels.
Spencer says, ’Sound design is a bit like Cinderella. We work with a lot of brand managers and it’s always the last thing they consider – and it’s the same with architects.’ He will also be looking to examples from Japan where, he says, ’They do things in a different way – even at the top of a 30-floor building looking out over the city you can still hear natural sounds.’

The event will be chaired by Fiddian Warman, managing director of consultancy Soda Creative. Writing on the Interactive Architecture event’s blog at www.metworksinteractive.org, Warman says, ’I think we are soon to see a Cambrian explosion of display, actuator and sensor systems integrated into rapidly evolving architectural systems.’

He adds, ’This gives us digital creatives and architects an opportunity to raise the bar and develop ideas that go beyond advertising or building- and people-management systems.’

Interactive Architecture 2010 – themes and speakers

Sensory: Sound and Light – Michael Spencer of Sound Stratgies, Usman Haque of Haque Design and Research

Metaphysical: Materials and Structures – Armand Terrulli of Vector Foiltec, Duncan Wilson of Arup Foresight, Alexandra Deschamps-Sensino of Tinker London

Art and Play: Community and Interaction – Ghislaine Boddington of BDS, Matt Adams of Blast Theory, Eva Rucki of Troika, Scott Burnham of Urban Play

Experiential Architecture – Alex Haw of Atmos, Andrew Whiting of Hut

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