Neshan magazine - LAb[au]

Neshan Magazine NR.27
Iran international graphic design magazine
spring 2012 issue

article: In-Between Color, Sound and Space
Pegah & Pouya Ahmadi

binary waves, cybernetic urban installation
weather.tower, permanent illumination for Brussels Dexia Tower
point, line, surface computed in seconds, interactive audiovisual installation

Knowledge of the world is conveyed to us by diverse signals impacting our senses. However, our perception tools are not sensitive enough to detect all changes in our surrounding environment. LAb[au] or 'laboratory for architecture and urbanism' is an art and research organization which deals with the notion of technology in the information age as well as accessibility of the extrasensory information in urban environment. Moreover, it concerns about applying technology as the extension of human sensory system to make more information at hand in the city. Founded in 1997 and based in Brussels, LAb[au] mainly creates interactive artworks, audiovisual representations, for which it develops its own software and interfaces. With a background in architecture their members, Manuel Abendroth, Jérôme Decock and Els Vermang are concerned with the concept of 'space' and the way it can be planned, experienced and conceptualised in the information age.


Binary waves is a project designed by LAb[au] that works as a extension of human auditory sense. Our auditory system is not adapted to certain types of waves traveling in air. Each time we make a call on our mobile phones, switch on our radios, or drive across town, electromagnetic waves are generated. Through sensors (spectrum analyser) Binary Waves captures these invisible flows of information and turns them into a unique display of light, sound, and motion that constantly shifts as the information it uses changes. The result is a visual, auditory and kinetic representation for the public orchestration of an urban sound ecology. Made up of 40 panels, each 3 meters high, the panels translate these communication waves, creating optical effects displaying red and white LED's. It was conceived in 2008 for the area of the Saint-Denis RER train station, a northern region of Paris, used by an average of 60,000 commuters each day. More precisely, it is located on the banks of the Saint-Denis canal framed by two bridges and a bus station. The piazza of the train station opens up to the canal by large descending steps forming an open stage facing this urban scene.

"Point, Line, Surface computed in seconds " was displayed during the ARTEFACT festival for art and new media at the STUK building in Leuven, Belgium for six days in 2005. The users created out of simple interactions a sound and image environment. Interaction was similar to drawing on a plane. A sonic / visual composition was gradually build out of the drawing movements of the users resulting not only in visual objects moving on the screen and the projection but also to sounds moving thanks to the 4 speakers setup and sound spatialization algorithms. The common grid slowly created a geometric pattern of space-time indexed objects which referred to Mondriaans synaesthetic ideas of the "boggie woggie", in-between color sound and space.


Measuring 145 meters from top to bottom and counting 38 floors, Dexia Tower is the third highest building in Brussels, Belgium. In the middle of the Rogier Square the building shines like a beacon over the town. The Tower is visible from several major traffic arteries in the capital and is situated precisely in the middle of the Mint Square - North Station axis. Designed by LAb[au], the installation uses a dozen LEDs in each window, making the whole building look like a big Lite Brite canvas. The temperature is shown based on the monthly average and a different color represents each increase or decrease. There also apparently is some color code for depicting humidity, wind speed and precipitation, but it beats us.

LAb[au]'s approach in environmental design is a very thoughtful and reflective one. While exploring the possibilities of interactions offered by the recent innovations in the realm of technology/science, LAb[au] questions our perception of environment surrounding us. Considering the fact that our body-mind structure allows us to receive/reflect upon certain volume of data in a given time, LAb[au] attempts to push our bodily limits by visualizing those environmental data which we are not consciously aware of. Yet they are not the direct creator of the output. They rather create tools/systems which process the invisible environmental data and generate audio/visual output which is projected back to the environment. Therefore the result is not just an appealing imagery, rather an indirect message from the environment to its inhabitants.

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