Vision magazine China _ LAb[au]
May 2007

question 1. the idea of urban "touch" project ?
question 2. what was the most difficult part ?
question 3. what was the biggest surprise ?
question 4. about touch technology ?
question 5. multi-touch technologies as inspiration ?

1. How did you generate the idea of urban "touch" project?

Since it's founding in 1997 LAb[au] explores digital architecture and MetaDesign focusing on the question how technologies of computation and communication transforms the construct of space; is it on the level of its perception, interaction and meaning. LAb[au]'s projects reach from experimental projects proper to the one of a lab to the one of production (bau = the construction). According to this approach the interactive urban installation 'touch' is a challenging project to experiment on a huge scale, a 145m high skyscraper in the city centre of Brussels, the influence of IC technologies in architecture and the city. In this sense the real-time interface allowing citizens to interact with the enlightening of the tower is far more than a fancy and playful device to create an attraction but the involvement of everybody in the city image. For this reason it also was important for us that people could snap a picture showing their 'creation', the enlightened tower placed inside the Brussels skyline, in form of an electronic postcard, they could send as a greeting card for 2007 new years' wishes. The entire project, this communication chain, creates an exchange in between the individual and the public space, the collective sphere, exploiting IC technologies, its processes and logics, to create a new and contemporary form of urban artefacts. Since long time LAb[au] has been occupied with the active use of IC technologies to conceive and create spatial processes exploiting all the potentials these technologies can offer but which in this size we hadn't had the opportunity to realise so far.


2. For such a large project, what's the most difficult part?

The most difficult part of the project wasn't the development of the software and hardware but their adaptation to the constrains of public space, is it on the level of weather conditions (the project taking place in winter and outside) or its exposure in public space involving questions of vandalism and user friendliness to everybody's skills... Therefore one of the challenges of the projects was to achieve a specific interactive design being resistant and accessible enough for public space without reducing the urban and visual qualities of the project.


3.During the Touch project, what's the biggest surprise for you?

The 'touch' project deals with the inter-action in between the citizen, the place, the skyscraper and the city based on an elementary and interactive language of light, geometric shapes and gesture recognition. The design aesthetics are directly deduced form abstract art such as Mondriaans 'elementarism' and Kandinsky's 'point and line to plane' as the skyscrapers architecture [ points = pixel = windows, lines and diagonals = levels and edges of the building and surface = facades ]. Further this vocabulary defines the interactivity design focusing on the architectural and urban quality of the project as it eliminate any metaphor, 'noise', from the shaped relation in between the public interaction and the building enlightening. The design thus focuses on the relational qualities expressed by an elementary language and exploits interactivity not as being a control system but rather a catalyst for these relational / representational parameters. In this sense the most enhancing experience of the project is that such an abstract an architectural language is no border for everybody's understanding / interaction but in contrary enhanced everybody's appreciation and pleasure.


4. Do you think the interface touch tech will become more and more popular?

New media, digital design will more and more take part in the construct of space / architecture, a state were its conception directly includes the question of interaction design, interfaces & software developments, information architecture... These developments will play a major role of tomorrows design / architecture. From this point of view the design of the 'Touch' project was only possible due to our own hardware, the 1.7 x 0.8 multi-touch screen, and software development. This development allowed us further to layout the project for an outside and urban use and shifted the development from a technological device to the design of an enlightened urban pavilion. Due to the fact that we could cover the entire conception and realisation process we could encounter the development with more design and conceptual considerations; actually it allowed us to 'design' a coherent project, not a technology, according to the contextual, technological and conceptual parameters. Therefore we think that interactive design is less a question of a specific technology but rather the ability to encounter technology with conceptual, artistic...concerns embracing these technologies with a wider meaning.

For us the question of what makes such a technology 'popular' is not the use of a new fancy technology but our abilities to integrate and to understand its potentials for contemporary design / architecture. In concern of the 'Touch' project we think that its qualities lay in the manner we use technology to create new forms of architectural representation and public space based on interactivity design. For us this interactivity design is far more than the development of a specific hard/software technology but the development of a global project including cultural, conceptual and aesthetic considerations.


5. Do you know anything about multi-touch technologies, do they give you any inspiration for your future designs and creation?

There are a lot of multi-touch technologies on the market all having their specificities and potentials, but what counts for us is its 'design' potentials - which also means how 'open' programmable and adaptable they are. Thus we develop our projects not from a specific technology but use / develop technologies according to the ideas and needs of a project. Of course multi-touch technologies have a huge potential for user friendly and intuitive interface design but still they require specific software developments such as the design of graphical user interfaces... Our interest in the multi-touch technology we developed for the 'touch' project, based on infrared tracking and image recognition, was its potential to build an interface device having the scale and usability proper to an urban and outside context allowing collective interaction. Further the interface is based on a projected image which directly creates a 'screen' by itself, an image we also projected on the back side of the pavilion reinforcing the link in between the pavilion and the 'tower' as it allowed passengers to follow users interaction. In resume the multi-touch screen we developed fitted in all senses to the concept of an urban stage / pavilion.


Contact Store Facebook Projects pdf en | fr | nl

Metalab02 History Navigator (requires the Adobe Flash Player 8+).