Interactive Urban Prairie | in square lab

• May 5, 2011

London-based architectural practice In Square Lab, MPC Digital and Existential create 4th dimension motion recognitive art installation project in SOHO, London.

Urban Prairie is an intuitive and interactive motion recognitive installation conceived and designed collaboratively by London architecture firm In Square Lab, post production and visual effects specialist MPC Digital and software developer Existential.

InstallationForProcessing 001 pM 600x422 Interactive Urban Prairie | in square lab

Interactive Urban Prairie, image courtesy in square lab

Inspired by the rapid reduction of green spaces due to urbanisation of cities, Urban Prairie seeks to recreate a 1000sqm sea of prairie from a 5m wide shop window. Green spaces are known to have positive effects on the image and vitality of spaces and provide valuable resources and focus for the communities. Green spaces provide a respite from the built environment and give an opportunity for recreation; promote health, well-being and quality of life.

InstallationForProcessing 006 pM 600x411 Interactive Urban Prairie | in square lab

Interactive Urban Prairie, image courtesy in square lab

In this project, the main challenge for the team was to create a system that allows for maintaining or even extending the notion of green spaces through intelligent use of design and technology via 4th dimension (time + space) design. Further to that, it is also hope that Urban Prairie can serve as a catalyst to inspire and provoke discussions and speculations about the concept of inside vs outside, here vs there and virtual vs realism.

InstallationForProcessing 002 pM 600x399 Interactive Urban Prairie | in square lab

Interactive Urban Prairie, image courtesy in square lab

InstallationForProcessing 007 pM 600x767 Interactive Urban Prairie | in square lab

Interactive Urban Prairie, image courtesy in square lab

Using an array of optical sensors and arduino boards, urban prairie captures and comprehends the movements of passersby in front of the installation. This digital data is then translated into kinetic responses via a series of servos; creating the phenomenon of a sea of grass swaying in the breeze. The motion of the ‘real’ grass is in turn measured by the specially designed software and translated to a field of virtual prairie on screens behind the ‘real’ grass. The combined result is an ‘Urban Prairie’ which passersby can engage and interact with through their movements in space. By varying their speed and location in front of the windows, passersby can generate wind disturbance that travels from the ‘real’ grass to the virtual prairie seamlessly and eventually fading off into the horizon.

InstallationForProcessing 003 pM 600x406 Interactive Urban Prairie | in square lab

Interactive Urban Prairie, image courtesy in square lab

InstallationForProcessing 004 pM 600x425 Interactive Urban Prairie | in square lab

Interactive Urban Prairie, image courtesy in square lab

This experimental installation illustrates the opportunity of merging the real world with the ever-increasing virtual environments we find ourselves living in. Through intelligent design and interventions, the team was able to synchronize physical materials with real-time graphics in a bid to create one experience; connecting spaces laterally, literally and virtually and in future expanding locally and globally. The interactivity between public and the installation underlines the notion of bringing the inside out; whilst blurring the boundaries between art, science, architecture, interactive design and shop window design.

+ For more information, please visit in square lab.

+ Project credits / data

in square lab:
Creative Director: Jackson Tan
Project Manager: Ernest Tsui, Ernie Lew
Hardware/Software: Mats Trovik, Damien Brown

MPC Digital:
Executive Producer: Jonny Dixon
Producer: Jason Plews
Graphics Software Consultant: Robin Carlisle
Production Coordinator: Samantha Rocca

Co-creator: Existential Ltd

Existential Ltd:
Software Developer: Adam Cubitt
Producer: Alenka Abraham

Special Thanks:
Marc Purser
Edwin Tsui
Jennifer Wong

+ About in square lab

in square lab is an architectural practice that specializes in Time Based Architecture.

This is an architecture that interacts intelligently with the environment and its users. This is based on the idea that the environment and the perception of it changes over time, hence allowing for the prospect of an architecture that manipulates the complex processes within the environment (ie media) to create new tangible and intelligent relationships.

The practice and design of Time Based Architecture are technology driven and often involves collaboration with diverse disciplines. Through the utilization of cutting edge technology and diverse knowledge, we begin to manipulate and interpret media in new ways. This manipulation of media in time creates an architecture that can interact intelligently with the environment and its users.

An architecture that can interact intelligently with the environment and its users is different from and provides more value than a static architecture because it can address issues with the environment and users in real time. In other words, the architecture can react to changes in the environment or users, and adapt/ respond accordingly to create an optimal condition.

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Category: Design, Technology