The competition brief called for an easily extendable building, with a strong focus on personnel safety. I have prepared this sketch concept view, together with diagrams explaining our design approach to address these points. Using a construction strategy based modular plug-in elements with identical folded structure roofs, each module can be easily connected to the station as it expands in the future, adding both additional capabilities and associated staff accommodation to the facilities.
Symétriades/Extension is a visual experience that we created for an eponymous contemporary music piece for solo double bass and musical artificial intelligence.
Commissioned by Le Fresnoy - Studio National des Arts Contemporains in France, this art performance was presented at a contemporary music festival in October 2018.
In this project, art director Alain Fleischer and music composer Yann Robin wanted to express the idea of an abstract immolation of the soloist through the performance of this powerful musical piece, “plunging the audience into an immersive experience of engulfment” and “a fusion between the worlds of the seen and the heard.”
We developed with the artists a scenography and live video projections generated in real-time by the sounds and movements of the musician on stage, merging the expressionist visual universe of Alain Fleischer with poetic elements from Stanislaw Lem’s book Solaris.
Symétriades as a musical piece
Composed in 2013 by Yann Robin, Symétriades is the second opus of three abstract compositions, all titled after the incomprehensible architectural formations described in Lem’s fictitious discipline of solaristics.
Inspired by and written for Nicolas Crosse’s double-bass powerful playing technique, the composition of the musical piece also includes an artificial intelligence that reprocesses in real-time the soloist’s live performance. This electronic system, developed at the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM), distorts, filters and reconfigures the music into a network of 8 loudspeakers and 4 sub-woofers that spatialise the sounds around the audience.
The visual experience
The artists wanted to visually express the contained ferocity of the music, using the metaphor of the bass as an instrument of self destruction.
Echoing some of the themes from Lem’s enigmatic book, we constructed the visual narrative of the performance as a succession of digital incarnations of the bass player.
Overlaid onto his physical presence on stage as video projections, each of these “doppelgänger” gets corrupted and eventually destroyed under the assaults of the sounds and movements of the musician on stage. Progressively turning into an abstracted version of his image, it finally recomposes itself into a purely abstract visual representation of the music.
To achieve this, our approach mixed real-time filming, 3D motion analysis of the musician on stage and sound analysis. We coded a custom computer program that could dynamically create and composite layers of animations over the image of the musician being projected onto the stage and coordinate them with the electronic sound processing.
The dynamic nature of our system allowed the video projections to adjust to the improvisations of the musician during the performance — something that the musical score specifically encourages during certain parts of the piece!
In parallel to the visual effects, we also designed a stage scenography for the performance.
From an early stage, we wanted to keep the powerful delivery of the soloist at the centre of the visual experience. Its perception by the audience should therefore be altered not only by the means of digital video projections, but also through the physical, direct medium of the scenography.
Playing with the perception of depth, we shrouded the stage with multiple layers of finely meshed black fabrics. These translucent surfaces create the screen for the video projections superimposed onto the stage and blur the projection into an elusive volumetric presence.
Positioned between the audience and the stage, they further distort the direct sight of the bass player through shifting patterns of moiré, adding to the expressionist makeup and costume of the performer, and echoing the liquid nature of the book’s protoplasmic being. Modulating the contrast between stage lighting and video projections, we could also shift the audience’s focus between the performer on stage and his abstract projected doubles.
The creative process
As we developed and refined the effects over the course of the production phase, we produced a series of video prototypes that precisely simulated the effects, based on high-definition videos and 3D captures taken during the first rehearsal. This allowed the involved artists to visualise the performance in real conditions at each design iteration, keeping the artistic discussion open and adjustments to the system simple.
We also took care of sorting out the technical solutions for the performance, selecting adequate equipment and producing detailed 3D models of the scenography and technical workflows, so that its feasibility could be checked with the technical team as the project developed.
Credits for the project
Art direction: Alain Fleischer
Music composer: Yann Robin
Double bass soloist: Nicolas Crosse
Electronic sound treatment: Robin Meier
Scenography & live video projection system: 2hD
Production manager: Bertrand Scalabre
Stage manager: Alexis Noël
Sound setup: Geoffrey Durcak
Production: Le Fresnoy - Studio National des Arts Contemporains, in co-production with L’Ensemble Multilaterale
Are you an artist working with interactive installations or performances?
Capitalising on our experience in the Ooo-Ya-Tsu, we developed for the Symétriades/Extension performance a custom program in Processing, which managed the sound, video and motion captures and generated the projected visualisation in real-time.
Some open source libraries were also used to interface together the different components of the system: Open Kinect for Processing (for real-time video and 3D analysis on stage), Minim (for real-time sound analysis) and oscP5 (for OSC network communication).
The different computers in the performance were communicating via OSC, using the excellent OSCulator (controlling the multi-track audio playback) and TouchOSC, for which we developed a custom graphical interface to tune the parameters of the Processing program in real-time.
Double bass player Nicolas Crosse will be interpreting Yann Robin’s Symétriades piece for solo double bass and electronics, spatialised over a complex electronic post-processing system and overlaid with the live video projections we have created with visual artist Alain Fleischer.
The performance will be shown as part of a contemporary music festival within Panorama 20, the yearly exhibition showcasing the art projects developed at the Studio over the last year.
There will be four public presentations of the performance over the weekend:
Friday 5 October 2018 at 20:00 and 22:15
Sunday 7 October 2018 at 15:00 and 17:00
Come and join us for a mighty musical and visual experience!
We have just moved our Norwegian office to a new workspace in central Oslo, in the Gamle Aker neighbourhood!
After six years at Sommerrogata 17, our former office space is now closed for renovation. And we would like to take this opportunity to thank all the talented people who shared that vibrant space with us, for all the fruitful collaborations and good laughs!
Pop by and say hello at our new address:
It was the first opportunity to test in real conditions the scenography and visual effects for the video projections that I had been developing for the performance in the past few months, collaborating with lead artist Alain Fleischer, music composer Yann Robin and double-bass player Nicolas Crosse.
Based on the idea of the soloist immolating himself through the performance of Yann Robin's piece for solo double-bass and electronics, our scenography is playing on the layering of open weave fabrics that are shrouding the musician in shifting patterns of moiré and acting as translucent screen surfaces for real-time video projections.
We will be developing further the motion capture techniques and visuals over the summer, until the first public performances of Symétriades on 5th and 7th of October 2018, at Le Fresnoy.
In this project, we helped a housing developer unlock the potential of a complex site in the beautiful neighbourhood of Nordstrand, in Oslo. Bringing together our skills in site analysis and visualisation, we designed and presented alternative development strategies for the site, helping the developer and the site owner to build architecture that is both inspiring and financially viable.
Surrounding by elegant villas with fantastic views to Oslo Fjord, the undeveloped site had a complex topography, with a north-facing rocky slope dropping 11 meter drop across the site, overgrown with several large mature trees.
This unusual configuration made the site unsuitable for standard off-the-shelf housing solutions. So the developer asked us to assess the viability of a development and to bring in some creative thinking to showcase the potential of the site to the site owner.
Analysing the site
Using available topographic information and photos, we started by creating a 3D model of the site landscape and its surrounding, which would serve as the basis for our analysis and presentation.
The various layers of planning regulations for the site were then analysed and compiled into a clear set of constraints applying to the project. The surrounding architectural context was also carefully taken into consideration, so that the development would not only integrated with the landscape, but also related meaningfully with the existing architectural language and scale of the residential area.
Presenting these constraints visually, together with topographic and climatic data, we summarised a set of alternative scenarios for the development, each with the associated areas, possible building forms, parking and access requirements and consequences on the potential complexity of the planning process.
With all information clearly summarised, the developer could easily review the options — weighing costs versus complexity of the required planning process — to select an optimal development scale matching his financial and marketing approach.
Thinking with the landscape
With the project scale now clearly defined (in our case, three single family units), we proceeded with structuring the site and developed alternative architectural strategies based on this scenario.
Our focus was on preserving the natural feel of the site, making the most of the existing topography and vegetation to create attractive outdoor spaces with extensive access to the sun for a large part of the year, despite the awkward orientation of the site.
The dwellings were articulated around the different levels of the landscape to minimise groundworks on the site, preserve the existing trees and promote accessibility.
Their volumes were laid out to reduce self-shading of the garden areas, balancing open communal outdoor areas with more private garden spaces linked to each dwelling, framing view from the living spaces and preserving a feeling of privacy from neighbours.
Taking an informed decision
The result was five alternative architectural strategies that could be presented to the developer to the site owner.
We organised our presentation around clear diagrams that visually summarised each strategy, with site plans, massing perspectives and outline dwelling organisations. so that the site owner — who had no previous experience in development — could appreciate the potential of the site and take inform decisions about its future.
I visited the North Nottinghamshire village of Maplebeck today with a group of 1st year students architecture from Nottingham Trent University. We were there to visit the New House, as guests of 2hD's wonderful clients Roger and Sue Bell. The students also visited the new Maplebeck village hall by Marsh Growchowski Architects and the nearby Hockerton Housing Project.
The students are learning about sustainable building design as part of their first year technical studies, so these three real-world low energy projects will be a boost to their understanding. For me personally it was great to return to Maplebeck and hear how well the house is working and how happy Roger and Sue are with the design. As the sun came out during the day we watched as the solar array pumped out nearly 7Kw of electricity, meeting the house's tiny energy demands with ease, charging the Tesla battery and exporting the excess to the National Grid.
Perhaps the only sad point of the day was to reflect on how unusual low energy housing still is considered in the UK. When I was taught as an undergraduate student in the early 1990s by Brenda & Robert Vale, they were completing their own house in Southwell, itself the culmination of research dating back to their 1975 publication "The Autonomous House". Four decades after that book, and a quarter century after the autonomous house in Southwell, we are still looking to the NEXT generation of architects, builders and developers to make sustainable housing the norm rather than the exception.
Let's hope today's visit has inspired some of the NTU students to integrate sustainable principles seamlessly into their creative processes!
Kudos to Roger and Sue for hosting us, to Derek Sayer of the Maplebeck Village Hall committee for tours of that building and to Chris Marsh, my NTU colleague for arranging the visit.
While developing the scenography for the Symétriades performance, I experimented with mixing the 3D model of our proposed stage setup with a sketch program, to communicate our proposed concept.
This simple example maps an early animation prototype of our Processing program onto layers exported from our SketchUp model of the scenography. The multiple projections are mapped over surfaces using the KeyStone Processing library, while lighting is controlled by dynamically adjusting layer opacities in the program. The mapped animation responds to a real-time spectral sound analysis of a rehearsal recording, as well as mouse movements on the modelled stage screens.
The integration of Processing sketches and SketchUp 3D models has a great potential for communicating ideas of the art installations in an interactive way. To be explored further…
A client have just sent us some photos of the finished staircase we have designed for her house.
We designed this little structure to provide access from the upper terraces of the house down to the garden space. Since the garden was also a prime spot for children play, we designed the staircase wrapped around a “treehouse”, in which the children can hide and play, or take a fun shortcut climb back home!
We have just started a new art performance collaboration at the Studio National des Arts Contemporains (a.k.a. Le Fresnoy) in Tourcoing, France.
Titled "Symétriades/Extension" (a reference to Stanislaw Lem's book Solaris), the performance project is a collaboration with Nicolas Crosse (double bass player), Alain Fleischer (visual artist) and Yann Robin (composer).
The artists' intention is to:
... give rise to a gigantic, organic, “living” creature whose every component is interdependent and whose nerve centre whose vital organ is constituted by the double bass player and his instrument. The soloist and the double bass will be positioned on a structure placed in the middle of the “playing” space. The instrumentalist’s body, the double bass, as well as the structure, will act as surfaces on which various visual dimensions will come to life. By extension, this visual entity, whatever its forms, will extend and proliferate in the architectural space hosting the performance.
Using our experience with the Ooo-Ya-Tsu performance, also interweaving music and interactive visuals, we will be helping the artists to develop the concept and scenography for the art performance and to create the real-time interactions between live projected visuals, the soloist’s gestures and electronic sound manipulations.
Our director Chris Heuvel is one of only 15 architects to be awarded Royal Institute of British Architects Fellow status in the 2018 list. The RIBA says of the award that "Fellow Membership gives us the opportunity to recognise our inspirational Chartered Members, the sometimes unsung heroes of the profession, who have made a real contribution to architecture, and the community."
Chris' full citation reads as follows:
"Chris is a Director at 2hD Architecture Workshop and a lecturer at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), where he delivers the professional practice elements of both the undergraduate and postgraduate architectural programmes, in addition to acting as Professional Studies Advisor for students in practice. He also runs the Design Studio module followed by first year undergraduates.
Chris champions architectural education as an integral aspect of professional practice, and is currently undertaking a major research project on behalf of NTU into how practitioners’ engagement with their local communities can be compatible with their business development objectives. All his teaching is substantially informed by a lifetime of active involvement in community engagement projects – previously in Norfolk and now in Nottingham, where (in conjunction with 2hD Ltd) he is currently helping a local group develop a business plan for the revival of their recently closed community centre."
Congratulations Chris, the recognition is thoroughly well deserved!