Try it yourself.
Begin, for instance, with the studio’s re-envisioning of Archigram’s Living Pod (1967) in which generative systems create mobile environments and evolving spaces. The resulting form might best be described as futuristic organic or techno-botanical.
But how does such highly experiential work – defined by ever-shifting variables like sound, light, time, and human interaction – get produced? We spoke with Stephen about how one goes about prototyping novelty and wonder.
Can you describe the design process for creating the more temporal or fluid elements of your work?
“Memory Cloud” was an idea that we have been working on for the last four years. It started through some experiments we were developing trying to visualize spoken word. As we developed prototypes of the project we thought about the ancient practices of visual communication such as smoke signaling, which is over 5,000 years old.
Can you describe any “break-through” moments in the evolution of the project?
Over four years in development, beta versions of “Memory Cloud” evolved through prototypes installed as public interventions under the name “Smoke Signals.” Following the success of these two earlier experiments, “Memory Cloud” was installed for two-and-a-half hours each evening. Over the three nights, a total of 1,500 messages were projected. Conversations emerged in unexpected and curious forms. In many ways, “Memory Cloud” offered participants the ability to lose themselves through the evolving relationships with the piece and each other. Their messages shaped the space of interaction and offered stimulus for further exchange.
What’s required to transform a good idea into a fully realized project?
Time and patience. Ideas need to find their form, and at times this demands that they evolve within the framework needed to fully realize them. In many of our works, we have had ideas that have been worked over 4-5 years before they materialized in the appropriate environment.
What differing roles do you [Stephen] and Theo assume as creative partners? Is there a standard division of labor?
Theo is based in London and I am in New York. We communicate everyday, and operate as a small network. As both our schedules and small-scale practice would suggest, we have a lot traveling and commitments internationally. We use this to our advantage and embrace the dynamic nature of our current model to structure how we work on a case-by-case scenario. As we prototype many of the projects in the studio, dedicated time in both London and New York are part of our everyday. Theo for example spends 4-5 months of the year in New York.
Traditionally, architecture has no real metrics for defining the success, unlike some other forms of design (such as product or industrial design). How do you, as designers, measure the impact of your work?
For us, this comes down to the curiosity that emerges when you give people the opportunity to engage and participate. They become playful and explore and transform the work in ways that bring about an active form of novelty. We call it systemic play. We do not try to measure but observe the qualities of these interactions and seek opportunities to explore them further.