Q&A with design studio SOFTlab

Q&A with design studio SOFTlab

The Architect’s Newspaper: What inspired Rise Nation? Did the client have specific ideas of what they wanted?

Michael Szivos: The client is a gym that provides an experience much like a spin class but with climbing machines. The brief was for an interesting light installation that responded to the music played during workouts. [Rise Nation] approached Lucas Werthein, a technology director and friend of ours, about the project and once they decided the best approach would be to design something that was both physical and interactive, Lucas brought us in on the project.

The initial inspiration was to produce an installation that evoked a rocky surface. This is the case when the lights are on, but during workouts the room is dark and the lighting is the only thing that is visible. What was interesting for us is this contrast. The seams between the rocky surface panels provide a lighting pattern that when animated is like lightning.

On the one hand, the installation appears like something solid, and on the other, it is very ephemeral. Oddly enough it is the formal overlaps between these two opposite systems that give them both their unique character.

What was the most difficult aspect of the design or production process?

The biggest issue was that [Rise Nation is] out in L.A. and the installation had to be put in pretty quickly. We had everything fabricated here in New York and shipped to Los Angeles, then assembled on site. The structure is made of all flat pieces of aluminum. Although it was challenging doing it across the country, it was our first permanent piece, which was really rewarding, and we have learned a lot from the project.

What can we expect to see from SOFTlab in 2016?

We are currently working on 3M’s experience for South by Southwest, a large installation for a lobby renovation in the Financial District in New York, and on a product booth for a lighting company that will be installed in a number of shows around the world.

We also just finished an exhibition with our friends at Tellart in Dubai for the World Government Summit as well as a permanent installation in the new 21c Museum Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky.

SOFTlab is doing a number of permanent installations, which is a great progression for us, and we have permanent lighting installations on the boards for a landmark building in L.A. and a flagship store in New York.