NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

Member of International Council of Design ico-D

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Neshan 27


In-Between Color, Sound and Space

Pouya Ahmadi

Pegah Ahmadi

Knowledge of the world is conveyed to us by diverse signals impacting our senses. However, our senses of perception 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 is interested in exploring the relationship between technology and the accessibility of the extrasensory information in the urban environment. More specifically, they have focused on the use of technology as an extension of the human sensory system. Founded in 1997 and based in Brussels, LAb[au] creates interactive artworks and audiovisual representations for which they develop their own software and interfaces. With a background in architecture, LAb[au]’s three founding 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 the human auditory sense. Due to limitations of our auditory system, humans are only able to hear a very specific band of frequencies in the sound spectrum. 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 analysers) Binary Waves captures these invisible flows of information and turns them into a unique display of light, sound, and motion that constantly shifts with the information that powers it. Made up of 40 panels, each 3 meters high, the panels translate these communication waves, creating optical effects through 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. The installation is located on the banks of the Saint-Denis canal and framed by two bridges and a bus station. The piazza of the train station opens up to the canal by way of a large stairway which forms an open stage facing the urban scene. The combined effect of location and constantly shifting input is a visual, auditory, and kinetic orchestration of an urban sound ecology.

“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 sound and image environment was achieved through the tracking of simple user interactions drawn on a plane. Four speakers and a series of sound spatialization algorithms were able to process the movements and transform them into audible sounds projeted back into the environment. The result was a  sonic / visual composition gradually built out of the movements and interactions of visitors.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 and 38 floors from top to bottom, 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, transforming the entire building into a giant Lite Brite canvas. The LED’s display temperatures based on the monthly average and a different color is used to represent an 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 to environmental design is very thoughtful and reflective. While exploring the possibilities of interactions offered by the recent innovations in the realm of technology/science, LAb[au] questions our perception of the environment surrounding us. Considering the fact that our body-mind structure allows us to receive/reflect upon certain volumes of data in a given time, LAb[au] attempts to push the limits by visualizing the environmental data which we are not consciously aware of. By creating tools and systems which process the invisible environmental and project this data back into the environment, the result is not just appealing imagery, rather an indirect message from the environment to its inhabitants.

Pouya Ahmadi

is a Chicago-based typographer and art director. He is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago—School of Design—and an editorial board member ​of Neshan magazine focusing on contemporary graphic design and the visual arts. Pouya's work has been showcased by It'sNiceThat, AIGA Eye on Design, People of Print, Grafik, Etapes,​ ​Type Directors Club, Print Magazine, and many others. Pouya holds a MA/MAS degree in Visual Communication from the Basel School of Design in Switzerland and an MFA in Graphic Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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