SHIZUKA SASAKI – teamLab

Shizuka_Sasaki.jpg

Japanese collective teamLab's immersive installations and artworks blend technology and creativity bringing together ‘ultratechnologists’ from diverse digital fields. The Fizz chatted to director Shizuka Sasaki at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, host to exhibition ‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park’.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
Throughout our artworks and spatial design we try to make other people’s existence a positive thing. With conventional art, like the Mona Lisa, you want to look at it by yourself and not be distracted by others, but in our artworks there’s always interaction. If someone’s touching it, or sharing the space, it changes around that person and makes the artwork beautiful. So those viewing it appreciate other people’s existence. We create a positive relationship between yourself and others.

How does the collective work?
It was started by our founder Toshiyuki Inoko with five people in 2001, but has grown to over 500. Most of us are permanent, but some work on a contract basis. I’m a catalyst for teamLab. A catalyst creates a team of people to make each project happen, drawn from different technologies. Sometimes we need mathematicians, sometimes special sensor engineers, or artists, designers or architects. So we gather specific teams and liaise through meetings.

TOP: teamLab director and catalyst Shizuka Sasaki. ABOVE: Interactive digital installations at Sydney exhibition 'Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park' at Ultimo's Powerhouse Museum, including 'Light Ball Orchestra', 'Hopscotch for Geniuses' and 'Graffiti Nature – Mountains and Valleys'

What inspired your touring show ‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park’?
We began as an IT company. When one of the co-founder's sons was little, he noticed kids were just playing by themselves on phones and tablets, not playing together. He was shocked, so took away the child’s phone. But then he thought, ‘I’m in the IT industry, why am I taking technology away from my son? Technology should be able to bring people in, and let them play together or be more creative with each other.’ So that’s how we started developing the idea of bringing kids together to interact and play through technology in this Future Park. Even though we use technology it’s not just for one person, it’s for a lot of people. Everything is interactive, so if you’re playing by yourself – as with our coloured 'Light Ball Orchestra' exhibit – it’s fun, but if there were more people it would be a lot more fun. There would be more sounds, interactions and colour, so it gets better.

In Future Park's 'Sketch Town' zone kids can scan their coloured-in drawings into a digital artwork and then move them around by touch. How does it work?
There are around 12 different things you can draw and put into 'Sketch Town'’s world. You can touch the pictures and move them around, and they will jump and dance. There’s a limitation to the artwork’s screen size, so once around 300 to 350 drawings appear on it, then your spaceship, say, or truck will start fading away, but they will last for a few hours.

ABOVE: Powerhouse Museum exhibition 'Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park' in Sydney, including interactive digital installations 'Sketch Town', 'Sketch People' and 'A Table where Little People Live'

How important is interactivity to your work?
Everything is interactive. We don’t want to create artworks that you just watch. We want people to be involved and actually to affect the artwork itself.

Why did you choose art as your medium?
It could have been any medium because our aim is to change people’s perspective. We wanted to create something that isn’t just a Japanese thing, but a universal concept. That’s why art is good to work with.

Where do you get inspiration?
We get inspiration from everything – art and architecture – but often from nature. We always blur the boundaries between science and art, and realistic things and virtual things. When you look at flowers, distant mountains or waves you think, ‘why are they so beautiful?’ We break down why they’re beautiful and create something from that concept.

ABOVE: Recent 'NGV Triennial' installation 'Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement' for Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria. Visitors' movement is tracked by sensors that communicate via computer with projectors, creating a visual vortex expressed as a continuum of digital particles

Tell us about your recent digital installation for Melbourne’s ‘NGV Triennial’ exhibition?
The 'NGV Triennial' piece was a vortex on the floor, which responds to people’s movement like water. The faster the person moves, the stronger the force is applied in that direction. If a person is not moving, no flow will occur.

Australian gallery Martin Browne Contemporary also shows your digital artworks. Tell us more…
Our artworks keep changing, synchronising with nature, weather or real places. We can’t give away exactly how we connect them to the outside world, but there's something like a GPS always talking to the system, and we create an algorithm. Perhaps the weather outside will affect the weather inside the artwork, or alters the behaviour of its inhabitants. Artworks change with the seasons or time of day. One client bought this ever-changing floral artwork, went on holiday and came back to find the flowers were totally different. They called us to say they liked it better before, but we told them they would have to wait a year to see their favourite July flower again!

ABOVE: Two teamLab digital artworks exhibited by Sydney gallery Martin Browne Contemporary, including six-channel 'Four Seasons, a 1000 Years, Terraced Rice Fields – Tashibunosho' and endless 9-channel work 'Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity'

What’s your social media of choice?
We have Facebook, Twitter and our favourite Instagram. Instagram works well for us because our artwork is very photogenic, so people like taking pictures at our exhibitions and posting them online.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
We do a lot of projects all over the world, so I travel all the time. After this I go to China. We get inspiration from everywhere, with shows like ‘Future Park’ touring from Asia to the US and Europe.

What’s next for teamLab?
On 21 June we have a huge permanent exhibition coming up called 'teamLab Borderless' about transcending borders. It’s at the MORI Building in Odaiba, Tokyo, and involves 520 computers, 470 projectors, 40 artworks and 10,000 square metres of three-dimensional space. We’re exploring the idea of connecting all the artworks together so there will be no borders between them. Everything is linked in some way, so for instance those little guys you’re looking at will go out of the artwork and go into another world or appear over there. We also have a Paris exhibition starting in May called ‘teamLab Au-delà des limites’.

ABOVE: Upcoming temporary Paris show 'teamLab Au-delà des limites'; and permanent Tokyo exhibition 'teamLab Borderless', in which 'artworks leave rooms and move, artworks communicate with other artworks, and artworks fuse with other artworks', breaking down the boundaries between art, the viewer and other people

teamlab.art
‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park presented by Toyota’ is at the Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, Sydney, Australia, until 30 April 2018. It will also open at Yang Art Museum, 3rd Floor, Building 14, Solana, No 6 Chaoyang Park Road, Chaoyang, Beijing, China from 25 June to 7 October 2018.

Catch ‘teamLab Au-delà des limites’ at Grande Halle de La Villette, Parc de la Villette, 211 Avenue Jean Jaurès, Paris, France, from 15 May to 9 September 2018. ‘Epson teamLab Borderless’ will be on show permanently at Mori Building Digital Art Museum at Palette Town, Odaiba, 1-3-8 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan, from 21 June 2018. See teamLab exhibitions for other current and future installations.

LAVA

Chris Bosse is one third of architecture firm LAVA, an innovative practice based in Sydney, Berlin and Stuttgart. The trio’s global, multi-disciplinary portfolio ranges from a sports hostel in Germany to a UAE eco city and a sinuous exhibition space for 2016’s Sydney Design Festival.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired your Sydney Design Festival exhibition design?
We designed the Powerhouse Museum exhibition ‘Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital’ (on until 25 June 2017), which was a digital dream come true. As a practice deeply entrenched in digital fabrication technologies, it was exciting to create an immersive space that provides room for storytelling and objects while being part of the story itself. Inspired by the exhibition content, our design explores the idea of a continuous line as a means to create a spatial continuum in a digital world, and to express the infinite possibilities of emerging digital data collection and manufacture. We used the latest technologies and CNC for fabrication, which were both time- and cost-effective.

ABOVE RIGHT: LAVA's Asia Pacific Director Chris Bosse
ABOVE: Futuristic exhibition design for 'Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital', part of the Sydney Design Festival at the Powerhouse Museum

ABOVE: LAVA co-founders Chris Bosse (Sydney), Alexander Rieck (Stuttgart) and Tobias Wallisser (Berlin)

What do the three of you bring to the party?
When LAVA was founded in 2007 the goal was to learn from the expertise of the three directors. Stuttgart-based Alexander Rieck brings knowledge of the working environments and building processes of the future, while Berlin-based Tobias Wallisser researches and teaches cutting-edge, digital planning technologies at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. I moved to Sydney in 2002 and my work is based on the computerised study of organic structure and resulting spatial conceptions. We offer a mobile, highly flexible network of specialist designers and collaborators across continents.

What's LAVA's design philosophy?
LAVA stands for Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, a laboratory for ideas tested and approved. The common thread is sustainable design – beautiful, efficient and contemporary, whether for an exhibition, a hotel or a whole city.

Our creative process incorporates mankind, nature and technology. Humans are at the centre, and we merge future technologies with the patterns of organisation found in nature to build a smarter, friendlier, more socially and environmentally responsible future. We use naturally evolving structural systems, such as snowflakes, spider’s webs and soap bubbles, for new building typologies – the geometries in nature generate both efficiency and beauty. By combining digital workflow, nature’s structural principles and the latest digital fabrication technologies we build more (architecture) with less (material/energy/time/cost).

ABOVE: Bosse contributed to PTW Architects' startling Beijing Olympics Watercube; LAVA's winning design for the UAE's future eco-friendly Masdar city centre; KACST Headquarters in Riyadh, and verdant Berlin mixed-used development THE:SQUARE, are both under construction; A 2012 bid to build the Secretariat of the Green Climate Fund in Bonn

Which projects are you most proud of? And what's up next? 
The National Swimming Centre in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. I was a key design member at PTW for the Watercube, which won the Atmosphere Award at the 9th Venice Architecture Biennale. Another was winning the international competition to design the centre of the world’s first eco city Masdar in the UAE.

LAVA designs currently under construction include a new university master plan and headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; a youth sports hostel in Bayreuth, Germany; mixed-use developments in Berlin and Hangzhou, China; and a residential tower in Hanoi, plus 88 houses in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

ABOVE: LAVA's design for the new Philips Lighting Headquarters in Eindhoven, The Netherlands; Sydney International Airport's sandstone-influenced regional duty free area, another 2016-completed project

We’ve also just completed a company headquarters and lighting showroom for Philips in The Netherlands, a regional duty free zone at Sydney International Airport inspired by the sandstone rock caves of Sydney Harbour, and a Japanese restaurant fit-out.

BELOW: Chris Bosse renovated his own sleekly organic Tivoli Terrace home in Sydney's inner-city Paddington in 2015

What drove the design of your own Sydney home?
Bringing the outside in was the priority in the 2015 renovation of Tivoli Terrace, a four-metre-wide terrace house, which links Victorian Sydney with the future of modern architecture. Every surface is a design element making a statement, and has more than one function like containing storage. New timber floors streamline the living areas, while sliding windows and timber screens open up to a courtyard and extend the space. Materiality was kept pale with natural wood and neutral colours, juxtaposed with iconic mid-century furniture and contemporary designer lighting which add 21st century cool.

ABOVE: A feasibility study for a Bionic Tower in Abu Dhabi, with an intelligent skin that responds to its environment; Featuring a shimmering façade of fins, Hangzhou's Zhejiang Gate Towers are under construction

Where do you get inspiration?
I start by going for a walk or swimming in the morning or at sunset – not only is it relaxing but that's also where I find ideas. You need oxygen running through your veins and you are completely enlightened. Going to work and sitting in front of a white sheet of paper is still the best moment, even if the sheet is a screen. A lot can get lost from idea to project and then realisation, and we try to diminish the gap.

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
‘Intelligent’ architecture. It is not about the shape but about the intelligence of the system. The intelligence of the smallest unit results in the intelligence of the overall system. I envision a world where buildings are responsive to external influences such as air pressure, temperature, humidity, and solar radiation; of networked building systems, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the architecture of the future new materials and technologies enable an adaptability, responsiveness, environmental awareness and strength not seen in conventional architecture. I practice these principles in projects from exhibition design in Sydney to villas in Vietnam.

ABOVE: Also under way is the Y-shaped Bayreuth Youth Hostel in Germany, sporting innovative forms and sustainable credentials

Who are your design heroes?
German architect Frei Otto’s soap bubble experiments for the Munich Olympic Stadium in the early Seventies are a great inspiration. Verner Panton’s iconic 'Panton Chair' anticipated the digital revolution by decades. And Antoni Gaudi, who designed buildings of unspeakable beauty and innovation, inspired by nature.

Where's on your travel wish list?
Snorkelling – being underwater – anywhere, from the Great Barrier Reef to Vanuatu and Malaysia. The coral reefs are the cities of the future where species coexist and thrive together. The light refractions of the sunlight create endless patterns and artwork together with the sand. I would love to see Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands too, although not for work!

What's your social media of choice?
Anything visual, Facebook or Instagram.
www.l-a-v-a.net

Pictures: Jayne Ion and Marinco Kojdanovski (Out of Hand exhibition)

NERI&HU

Founding partners of acclaimed Shanghai architecture and design practice Neri&Hu, husband and wife Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu are also creative directors of Chinese furniture label Stellar Works and have crafted elegant modern products for a host of top global brands.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
At Neri&Hu we believe in architecture and design as a powerful cultural force. We prefer the subtext over the obvious, and the poetic over the utilitarian. We always start with a concept and research it in depth, looking for traces and signs that inspire us. We are still too young to have a distinct language, so we flow in many directions depending on the specific project, but we always explore layering, transparency, texture, framing and materiality. Questions of culture and aesthetic philosophy concern us deeply and we also want to relate what we do to everyday life.

What do you each bring to the party?
Lyndon is more of a creator and Rossana a critic, which is a good combination.

ABOVE: At The Waterhouse at South Bund, Neri&Hu transformed a Thirties army headquarters in Shanghai into a rough-luxe boutique hotel

How do you balance heritage and modern to create a new Chinese aesthetic?
For us, the redevelopment – or historic renovation – projects are extremely interesting. They allow us to try different ways of interpreting culture and history, something that relates to our identity as individuals and as a collective, and to explore the contrasts between old and new. They’re also a perfect way of preserving memory, as well as creating a sustainable environment to promote healthy reuse, rather than simply demolishing and rebuilding for commercial gain.

Which recent projects are you proud of?
We’ve just designed Kuala Lumpur's Sentul Contemporary Art Museum in Malaysia, which is about monumentality and preserving urban memory, and a creative agency's headquarters for Meiré und Meiré in Cologne, Germany, which merges architectural and institutional identity.

ABOVE: Industrial-chic interiors for Kensington Street Social restaurant at The Old Clare Hotel in Sydney team raw concrete and sleek wood with brass and glass louvres

Tell us about Sydney restaurant Kensington Street Social at The Old Clare Hotel.
We were inspired by Kensington Street Social’s setting within the former Carlton & United Breweries building. We reinterpreted the brewing equipment once used there by inserting two machine-like volumes into the space. The two machine boxes rest atop a continuous concrete landscape defining the footprints of the restaurant’s tapas bar and cocktail bar. The design also takes its cues from the ‘social’ motif of chef Jason Atherton’s restaurants and architecturally treats the interior as an extension of the lively Kensington streetscape, blurring the boundaries between inside and out. 

ABOVE: Neri&Hu's graphic 'Remnant 1' (red) and 'Remnant 2' (blue) rugs for Dutch brand Moooi Carpets reflect Chinese streetscapes; 'A Cabinet of Curiosity' cabinet and 'Utility' sofa for Stellar Works; 'Jie' rugs in celadon and blue for Spain's Nanimarquina, riffing on street tile patterns

What inspires you?
We are inspired by the mundane and the ordinary. The fabric of Shanghai and the everyday activities in and around the city are a huge inspiration. The Western architectural tradition forms the basis of our education, but culturally we are very much Chinese, and that influences our work especially in China. We also like to examine local culture wherever our projects are located.

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
Paring down to the essence of things – not simply minimalism, but keeping only the necessary while still creating an enriching spatial experience. Also exploring new materials.

ABOVE: 'Ayi' coat rack/umbrella stands for Swedish firm Offecct; the red ash 'Ming' chair for Stellar Works reinterprets trad wooden Chinese seats; Conceived as 'little butlers', 2016's 'Ren' occasional furniture collection for Italy's Poltrona Frau was inspired by the Chinese character 'ren' meaning 'people'; Co-joined 'Together' chairs for Denmark's Fritz Hansen

Who are your design heroes?
There are many contemporary giants whose work we admire. Le Corbusier is still very relevant for studying form and spaces. Carlo Scarpa continues to inspire us with his details and composition, and Adolf Loos with his clarity and rigour. Of the architects practising today, we admire the work of SANAA, Alvaro Siza, David Chipperfield and Peter Zumthor. In terms of mentors, Lyndon's thesis adviser at Harvard Graduate School of Design was Rafael Moneo and he’s definitely played a big part in moulding his take on architecture. Both of us worked at Michael Graves, which taught us a multidisciplinary design approach.

Where’s on your travel wish list? 
Malawi, Istanbul and Prague [Rossana]. Argentina and Berlin [Lyndon].

TOP: A continuous clothes rail runs around flagship fashion store Comme Moi in Shanghai, which also sports cage-like custom-made cabinets; 'Dowry' cabinets and other signature pieces for Stellar Works; 'Jian' hooded sofa for Spain's Gandiablasco against the Pudong skyline
ABOVE: The 'Bai' pendant light family for Spanish brand Parachilna encases a Chinese lantern in a modern glass bulb; A lattice of brass rods creates see-through interiors at skincare brand Sulwhasoo's Seoul store

What’s the Shanghai design scene like?
It is being infiltrated with global energy and design influences on a daily basis, and the absorption rate is extremely high. The problem that comes with this phenomenon is that people are not that critical about what they see and use, so regardless of whether things are good/bad, appropriate/inappropriate, they are all being taken on here.

What’s your social media of choice?
Instagram, I like images over words when expressing myself [Lyndon].
Weibo if at all, but trying to boycott it right now! And Instagram [Rossana].
www.neriandhu.com

Portrait: Andrew Rowat Other images: Poltrona Frau and Sulwhasoo, Pedro Pegenaute; Gandiablasco, Dirk Weiblen

For more on Neri&Hu, see our earlier post on Stellar Works

POLLY DICKENS Habitat

Polly Dickens is a well-known figure on the London design scene. Famous for her brilliant eye, she has travelled the world as a buyer for retailers including Anthropologie, Liberty and The Conran Shop. Now Creative Director at Habitat, she has gone full circle back to her Conran roots charting the unexpected colour combos, textures and patterns that embody Habitat's genre-hopping, global mix.

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Tell us about your new collection for Habitat.
We’ve looked at a range of ideas for AW15 from the 1980s Memphis design movement to mid-century America, 1950s Scandinavia and modern-day Africa. Our designers have translated these ideas into a collection that ticks lots of boxes with interesting use of materials, strong shapes and bright colours. My favourite is the new 'Astrid' light designed by Matthew Long, which was inspired by DNA molecules for a simple but elegant, graphic lighting concept. His 'Hawkins' armchair is also a real statement combining an angular shape with chrome frames and mixed fabric textures (see our picks from the Habitat AW15 collection here).

ABOVE RIGHT: 'Hawkins' armchair by Matthew Long in green wool and grey velvet, £995, Habitat
BELOW: 'Astrid' lights by Matthew Long, from £70, Habitat

What aspect of the range do you love the most?
That it’s brave and makes a statement. I always admired Habitat for creating designs that have a distinct personality – designs that aren’t afraid to challenge conventions and push people into looking at home furnishings in a different way. With this collection I really feel that we’ve done that again, creating statement designs that some will love and some will hate but that encourage people to be passionate and engage with design. Nobody else is doing that on the high street but it’s where Habitat will always be.

How would you sum up your style as a designer?
I’m not a designer as such but more of an editor – putting together designs and products for the Habitat collection and building the creative identity of the brand. For me, the provenance of a product is paramount and I’ve worked to champion ‘the hand of the maker’ at Habitat. You’ll notice, especially with our ceramics, textiles and accessories, that we’ve made sure you can see where a person has worked on a product – from brush strokes to imperfect shapes.

What are your influences?
I find that experience is my biggest influence – experiences from travels, exhibitions, trade fairs, theatre – the list goes on. I am continually inspired by people, places and things around me. These are constantly changing and translate into the collection in some shape or form. This year, the incredible Jackson Pollock exhibition at the Venice Guggenheim was the inspiration point for our Christmas 2016 collection, which we are really excited to launch.

BELOW: 'Mural' (1943) by Jackson Pollock is on show at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, until 16 November 2015

Who or what is exciting you in design right now?
UK designer Aaron Probyn (left). We worked with him on a retrospective project for Habitat’s 50th birthday back in 2014 and I’m working with him again on a new collection for SS16. The way he adapts across product categories using different mediums is fascinating.

ABOVE: 'Poise', 'Pendry' and 'Marlowe' table lamps for Habitat by Aaron Probyn, 2014
BELOW RIGHT: Jean Prouvé's 'Fauteuil Direction Pivotant' office chair by G–Star RAW for Vitra

What’s next for you?
We’ve just finished putting together our SS16 collection so it’s on to AW16. I’m off on a big buying trip to the Far East taking in Hong Kong, China and Thailand. We’ve worked with suppliers out there for a number of years and on this trip we’ll be looking at accessories from new ceramicists' studios, working on Christmas decoration designs and also new porcelain lighting in China.   

Who are your design heroes?
Jean Prouvé is one. I love his work and am fortunate enough to have collected several of his pieces for Vitra over the years.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
I’m a bit of a travel junkie. My job has meant I’ve been lucky enough to cover most corners of the globe but the one place I want to spend more time is Japan. It is such a diverse country that I have only been able to glimpse it on business trips so would love to have more time to explore. I’m also a passionate cook, so anywhere that has a good food market is on the list too. 

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
Anything from Korean-born, Brooklyn-based Jennie Jieun Lee’s ceramics collection.

ABOVE: The colourful painterly ceramic world of Jennie Jieun Lee

If you weren't a creative director, what might you have been?
At university I was heavily involved with student theatre, designing and making costumes for lots of different productions. I loved it and was thinking of extending my degree into theatre design.

What’s your social media of choice?
I’m quite an ‘unsocial’ media type, however I love photography and my iPhone’s memory is always full of all the pictures I take, so I’d have to be on Instagram.
habitat.co.uk 

Habitat's Autumn/Winter collection is available from September 2015