Hal Watts, Ben Alun-Jones & Alicja Pytlewska / Royal College of Art (MA) + Imperial College London (MSc)
Liminal Spaces is a sensitive and light project, well resolved and of graceful sophistication which explores in a playful manner the interaction between people and the space that constantly transforms, changing our perception inside of it, and our relation with the surrounding. This changing landscape promotes interesting effects of lights and shadows. We believe that it deals with an experience, which motivates our present and our experiences, placing us in an environment where design, architecture and the imaginary accomplish complementary functions.
The liminal spaces project explores a concept of a future where fluid and responsive environments which sense your presence and seamlessly form themselves around you.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
This installation is a result of an experimental project on the theme of magic and design, conducted in the final year of the Innovation Design Engineering Programme at the Royal College of Art.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
In this project we have explored the design of magic and its effects on people, then tried to realise a piece of a future which we feel would have a magical effect on people. Industrial Design often seeks continual improvement; better technologies, better functionality, more intuitive, more efficient. Will this lead to the paradise that we all desire? Where then is the unexpected, the surprise, even the magic in such a future?
Both design and magic take you on a journey, but magic takes you to a new surprising a delightful place — a journey not of efficiency, but of serendipity.
Our piece builds on those unexpected moments, how the immersive qualities of magic, when your understanding of the world falls away and your left amazed.
This fluid environment could give you want you want and need, but also surprise and let you live a reinvented experience of the same, ever changing landscape. We strived to achieve an immersive experience, hence building a full scale, interactive installation. We feel that this would be a first step to a series of exploration in this arena.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
During the four months it took us to complete this project we embarked on a rigorous experimental process, which also included in-depth research of the design of magic, the magical experience, space perception and design. Our insights let us to the construction of this immersive experience of a future space as well as a small publication (book) outlining our findings, and aimed at inspiring others. The installation was designed and produced by hand, and included approximately 1000 custom (mostly) hand made parts.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The liminal spaces installation explores the idea of an ever changing environment. During testing a variety of formations were explored in the context of personal and public space. The space changed depending on the number of people who entered within its realm, sometimes providing cosy corners, flexible corridors, traps and opportunities for unexpected meetings and interactions. What we observed was a wonder on the faces of the solo venturers and curious delight and playful behaviour when multiple people entered the space. We feel that this exact reaction is a clue to what could be a new way of designing public spaces in the future with the ever more connected environments and smart materials, which could allow this to become a reality.