De-Materialised - LAb[au]

D E - M A T E R I A L I S E D

Architecture is becoming increasingly involved in digital information technologies, yet its manifestations continue to remain in material realms. It is our attempt here to showcase an architecture typology/vocabulary comprising of alternate materials (virtual), through pioneering practices and projects that operate in installation, architecture, urbanism and other spatial spheres.


framework f5x5x3

The f5x5x3 sculpture is a kinetic and luminous framework conceived and realised by LAb[au] or laboratory for Architecture and Urbanism, founded in 1997 and based in Brussels. The firm mainly creates interactive artworks, audio-visual performance and scenographies, for which they develop their own software and inter faces. Its four members are Manuel Abendroth, Jérôme Decock, Alexandre Plennevaux and Els Vermang. Their methodology of MetaDesign underlines that 'The technological developments of the last decades are at the base of the shift from industrial to post-industrial information society. Notions of body, matter, space and time are increasingly being defined by the unit of information, being defined by the unit of information, introducing new parameters of space and time - presence, such as immersion and interaction, as well as new parameters of materiality or biological ones in its definition.'

f5x5x3 installation is part of the '16n' project cycle confronting architectural concepts such as congestion and flow with spatial sensing technologies and its constructs through the means of programmed 'lumino-kinetic' devices. The grouped projects range from architecture, urbanism to landscape and sculpture. --->


The term 'framework' refers to the installation's constituting elements, a raster of 125 fixed and 250 kinetic aluminium frames, and to the multiple operating modes of the installation, from a low-resolution display to a generative and interactive sculpture. The 375 aluminium frames constitute the framework, a space built up by five modules of 2x2m each, divided in 5x5 regular elements, establishing a matrix of 5x5x5 = 125 main frames. Each of the 125 main frames contains a middle frame, rotating around its central vertical axis, which itself contains a central filled frame, a square, turning around its central horizontal axis; as such, it is an encapsulating principle of a frame in a frame in a frame.

These fixed and kinetic frames form 10m long and 2m high installation, which by scale forms an architectural element or a 20sqm kinetic sculpture. On one side the frames are lacquered white, diffusing the light, while on the other side it is lacquered black, thus absorbing light, constituting as such a binary state (0 = black; white = 1). Following these kinetic and colour principles, a black side of a mobile frame can be turned on the white side of a fixed frame, as well as the reverse allowing one to exploit the black and white contrast by creating visual patterns and geometric signs. The 375 frames of the installation are enlightened by light-emitting diodes on their edges. The main frame with white light, the middle with red and the innermost one with white light again, each of the 375 modules, presenting up to four edges, can be enlightened and control led individually adding further states to the framework. These light-specific binary states, on/off and white/red, enhance the device for night and darker environment use. At the base of the installation 50 infra-red sensors, 25 on each side with a maximum range of 6m, help to produce a horizontal sensing matrix at the ground level similar to the vertical grid of the installation. Due to this infra-red grid, the presence and position of people in the vicinity of the installation can be tracked and the direction of their movement deduced. The correspondence between the spatial division and the tracking grid of the installation allows the correlation between a person's position and its change, movement, to a corresponding module of the installation with a kinetic or luminous behaviour.



'Touch' is another project by the Belgian firm, LAb[au]. It takes Brussels 145m-high Dexia Tower as starting point, from which 4200 windows can be individually enlightened, by RGB-LED bars to turn the facade into an immense display. Instead of considering this infrastructure as a flat screen surface displaying pre-rendered video loops, the project works on the architectural characteristics of the tower and its urban context.

The characteristics of the building such as orientation, volume, scale are used as parameters to set up a spatial, temporal and luminous concept, which allows people to interact with the tower directly. On Place Rogier, an interactive station is mounted at the bottom of the tower where people can interact either individually or collectively with the display through a multi-touch screen. The static input of touch as well the dynamic input of gesture is recognised, taking into account certain parameters such as width, direction, duration and speed to generate an elementary graphical language of points, lines and planes, in a monochromatic background colour palette combined with black and white graphical elements. Once a composition is created, it can be sent as an electronic postcard with a snapshot of the tower, taken from a distance. The design of the interactive station is based on the idea of folding and unfolding space. Embodied in three parts, the station is placed on Brussels' North-South axis in front of the Dexia Tower. The first fold allows people to interact with a multi-touch screen; the second fold directly displays the user interaction or finger drawing on a projection screen. In this manner, the station not only establishes a direct relation with the visual and luminous display of the tower but also shows the passers-by the ongoing process of interaction. This real-time and collective interaction on an urban scale transforms the Dexia Tower into a new Brussels landmark which presents art to the city by allowing temporary urban graffiti.

"... complete article by: Ekta Idnany

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