code magazine - LAb[au]

code magazine
dutch fashion magazine
october 2008 issue

special feature about todaysart festival 2008

featuring: LAb[au]
LAb[au]: laboratory for architecture + urbanism

— An interdisciplinary laboratory operating in the shadowy area between architecture,design, and computer science. Its designers create installations and interventions, which challenge us to examine space in new and intangible ways.

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Pointer 50°51'15.64" N 4°21'07,09" E


For LAb[au], the Brussels based interactivity specialists, urban space and the structures that define it have become fluid. Communication and relationships have replaced bricks and mortar as interpretive structural features, and the resulting projects, where pixels move from the screen into the real world, walls and furniture respond dynamically to the environment, and where fish communication is channelled into signals we can see and hear, are startling.

"The technological developments of the past thirty years have given rise to a major shift from the


industrial to the post-industrial information society," says Els Vermang, one of the group's four members; "units of information increasingly define our notions of body, matter, space and time," and nowadays, new technologies are the biggest influence on the spaces we inhabit and how our lives are organised within them. LAb[au]'s response to this shift? To develop a creative approach that concentrates normal urban, architectural and personal space. They foster fluidity between technology, structures and people in their projects, based on what they call 'MetaDeSIGN', an approach that can be corralled into one discipline, but is informed by many. It's neither architecture, nor art, nor theory, but contains elements of all three.

Vermang, an architecture graduate who has been with the collective since 2003, describes their creative approach as "a trans-disciplinary and collaborative methodology that examines the transformation of architecture, art and design. MetaDeSIGN displays the theme of space and time relative to information processes; architecture as a code." UN-ARCHITECTURE The group is best known for its work with the 38 floor Dexia Tower in the centre of Brussels. 'Touch', one of the projects which used the building, illuminated 4,200 of the tower's 6,000 windows with complex animated light patterns. The 150,000 LEDs were controlled by visitors on the street below via a touch screen, becoming a spectacular, 145 -metre interactive light show. The LAb[au] collective apply MetaDeSIGN to projects in buildings, public spaces and galleries, often in collaboration with other artists and designers. Some of their projects, like Dexia Towers, are architecturally orientated, but many have nothing at all to do with buildings in the traditional sense.

All of their work, however, uses technology to explore the new spatial relationships springing up as a result of technological development, and all nod simultaneously toward computer science, cognitive science, and Bauhaus. TodaysArt will feature LAb[au]'s kinetic screens, the framework f5x5x5'. The system gives pixellated information a real world, and a spatial presence. Data sent to the screens is reinterpreted into 3D-patterns of flickering movement across 125 cells, each of which can


spin and twist to form simple characters and symbols, or complex patterns. Motion sensors track and logas binary data, information about the environment, such as someone walking past, and this is then immediately transposed into 3D-animated displays. The complete project will be comprised of five 'frameworks', which combine to become a ten-metre-long piece: a wall that reacts to the presence of people.

'Programmatic furniture' is another project which responds to human presence. In collaboration with artist/ designer Sebastien Wierinck, LAb[au] will create sofas for TodaysArt that light up when someone sits down on them. But it's the presence of fish rather than people that drives LAb[au]'s 'EOD02 fish' project, also featured at TodaysArt. In collaboration with artist Frederick De Wilde, LAb[au] will set up an installation to reveal the language of a particular species of fish which communicates by low voltage electrical signals. These are picked up by antennas in the tanks and converted into sound, allowing us to tune-in to a world we would never normally perceive. Listeners can eavesdrop on a species that perfected electronic communication millions of years before we did.

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