Portfolio project
Symétriades: visualising contemporary music

Thibaut Devulder

View of our live projection mapped onto the performance stage

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.

This is what I call an immersive experience! It was incredible to witness my own avatars being destroyed in real time, as I performed the piece.

2hD’s work, under the artistic benevolence of Alain Fleischer, gave an exponential dimension to Yann Robin’s composition, merging the visual and musical architectures into one.
Nicolas Crosse, soloist in the performance
 

Extract from Yann Robin’s musical score, codifying the complex movements of the soloist on the double bass (image © Yann Robin)

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!

 

Double-bass solist Nicolas Crosse during rehearsals, seen through the shifting moiré of the translucent projection screens of our scenography.

The scenography

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?

The tools we used for the Symétriades performance

Thibaut Devulder

Technical diagram of the performance setup

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.

Symétriades live performances this weekend!

Thibaut Devulder
Screencapture.jpg

I am at the Studio National des Arts Contemporains (a.k.a. Le Fresnoy) for the final rehearsals of the Symétriades art performance, for which we developed the scenography and live video projections.

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!

Visualising interactive art installations with Processing and SketchUp

Thibaut Devulder

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…

Designing self-build projects for artists

Tom Hughes

A recent project at One Thoresby Street artists studios and gallery gave us a chance to develop new techniques for designing with self-builders.

Artists at the One Thoresby Street gallery, building our design themselves

As part of a longstanding relationship with the artists at One Thoresby Street (OTS), we were asked to design a lobby space for the top-floor Attic Gallery. This would sort out circulation between the gallery and studio spaces and provide a vital fire safety feature by separating the occupied space from the access stairwell. Unusually, the lobby would be built entirely by the artists themselves.

We approached the project through a careful survey of the existing building and designed the lobby to create a great experience for visitors as they approached up the stairwell. A sliding fire door, held open on electronic sensors linked to the fire alarm system ensures that movement and views through are eased. The height of the lobby is reduced to contrast with the tall gallery space, which also minimises the materials used and creates a storage and projection deck overhead.

High technical standards had to be met in the project to create a fire resistant construction, the budget was tight for materials and the building team (skilled makers but not construction professionals) needed to have excellent clarity over the build process.

This put huge demands on the communication of technical information, so we took an approach more normally found in larger scale projects - we created a 'Building Information Model'. This was a CAD model showing every structural member, board and component, organised to give the artists a coordinated picture of the materials to order, the dimensions for cutting, the assembly sequence and the spatial relationship between every item in the final assembly. We then lent the group a laptop with the CAD model installed so that they could take the information directly off it on site.

The build proceeded smoothly with a tiny number of requests for additional information, wastage of materials was kept to a minimum and the end result is a happy self build client, an effective adaptation and an safer, better Attic Gallery space at OTS.

Photography: Kubik's new office for Norman & Co

Thibaut Devulder

Kubik Interiørarkitekter — the talented interior architects with whom we are sharing an office space in Oslo — asked me to take photos of their freshly completed new interior for Norman & Co, Norway's oldest law firm, in Oslo's exclusive Akerbrygge neighbourhood.

Here are some of my shots, trying to capture Kubik's delicate contrast of warm materials and cool light...

Photos taken brilliantly, in all aspects of the word!
Nice, precise, detailed and beautifully captured with brilliant colours. We will definitely ask 2hD again to photograph our interior projects!
Hege Liven, interior architect at Kubik

In the snow

Thibaut Devulder

The Hvitsten cabin under construction, in the snow...

From the window niche in the play area, overlooking the snowy approach and the existing annex cabins

Hvitsten — a seaside resort on the Oslo fjord where we are redesigning a cabin — can still be pretty cold in winter. Yesterday's visit to the building site showed me an aspect of the project I hadn't experienced yet: the summer cabin in the snow.

Part of the client's brief was to make the cabin comfortable to use all year round, so I could finally put our design to test, overlooking the snowy landscape from its cosy interior.

The interior is nearing completion and the new oak-clad storage wall was being installed, with its integrated kitchen and window niche in the play area.

The new kitchen and storage wall being installed

Portfolio project
Remodeling a family home in Bærum

Thibaut Devulder

We have just finalised the design for the remodeling and extension of a family house in Bærum, near Oslo. The detailed drawings package has now been sent to potential builders and, before construction starts this spring, we would like to share some of the ideas behind our design approach.

Sketch view of the redesigned home, approaching the new entrance

About our clients

Our clients, a young Norwegian couple with a toddler, had purchased a derelict detached house in the neighbourhood of Gjettum. The existing house had been divided into two rental apartments, one on each floor, connected by a shared entrance staircase.

Their plan was to merge these two floors into a single family home, where they would live and host frequent gatherings with their large extended family. The structure and footprint of the existing house was to remain mostly unchanged, but its fabric upgraded to meet modern environmental standards. Our clients were also considering the option of accommodating a rental apartment within the house, to create some additional income until they needed the whole house for their growing family

The existing house

The general feeling of the existing house was somewhat claustrophobic: the redundant spaces created by the two identical floor plans, the small cellular rooms and window-less corridors, the few oversized windows... All contributed to the impression of undersized spaces. A large garden surrounds the house but this was completely disconnected from the interior. It was also mostly spoiled by a garage and a long driveway to the south boundary of the site, which made the approach to the building unwelcoming.

Floor plans of the existing house (click for full view)

The existing house, viewed from the street approach

Our design strategy

An obvious solution would have been to extend the house to open up the main living spaces. However, as in many of our projects, we focussed on making the most of the existing building. Key to this approach was to reconnect the various living spaces — both interior and exterior — so that the different architectural functions could flow into one another.

Our design strategy, as presented to our clients during the sketch design phase. Drawn on top of the floor plan of the existing house (click for a full view)

Connecting the social spaces

Our first step was to move bedrooms to the upper floor, so that we could gather all social spaces on the ground floor, just a step away from the garden. We then removed a few internal walls to open two long perspectives across the whole ground floor. This created a close connection to the garden, making it both visible and easily accessible from all living spaces.

These spaces — where eating, relaxing and socialising take place — naturally organised themselves around these open lines, articulated by the existing staircase and a new wood stove. Each living space is designed with its own sense of scale and openness. Yet, it can be used as an extension of another, giving maximum flexibility both for everyday life and for the large social gatherings that our clients love to host.

The kitchen — the natural heart of the house for the family — is now placed at the very centre of this plan and is connected to all surrounding social spaces. A screen of open shelving wraps around the kitchen, to subtly shelter it and discretely accommodate storage, appliances and a study (that doubles as an accessible guest bedroom) on the north-east.

Opening up to the garden

Each of the living-rooms extends to the garden through large French doors: on the south-east, onto a large timber terrace stepping down to the main garden, and on the south-west to a more private terrace that opens the dining room to the evening sun. Since all windows had to be replaced, we took this opportunity to redesign many of the openings to the garden, drawing daylight from different directions in all spaces and carefully framing attractive views to the outdoors.

To the south, we created a new functional and welcoming entrance to the house that also accommodates an accessible modern bathroom. Both this small extension and the new garage (relocated closer to the access road) are designed with similar flat roof details and horizontal cladding, contrasting with the taller existing house. Together, they frame an attractive new approach to the house that echoes the traditional "tun" of Norwegian farmyards, under the dappled shade of newly planted cherry trees.

An overview of the ground floor in relation to the garden (click for full size)

The remodelled basement, with its separate rental apartment

The private spaces

A new family bathroom and four bedrooms are located on the upper floor. One of these rooms doubles up as a separate TV/play room, where extra guests can stay overnight.

The basement is also remodelled: two thirds of it are transformed into a comfortable self contained apartment, which will be rented out to tenants before becoming an integral part of the house for family guests and teenager children. The large new windows bring plenty of daylight into the space and the separate access to the north and landscaping create a small private garden for the tenants. The remaining space in the basement accommodates a large washroom, as well as the technical installations and storage.

Comfort and sustainability

As part of the remodeling, we upgraded the whole house to meet current energy conservation standards, externally insulating the fabric of the building and replacing the existing windows with highly insulated ones.

We also made the most of the panoramic wood stove on the ground floor by coupling it with a modern balanced ventilation system: diffusing the stove heat in the whole house — including the four bedrooms upstairs— we could design the house so that most of the heating needs would be provided by renewable firewood, while also keeping optimal indoor air quality.


Portfolio project
A seaside cabin in Hvitsten

Thibaut Devulder

Sketch impression of the remodeled cabin, looking at the fjord from the playroom

We love to design cabins, as they bring together so many of our design interests.

First, our predilection for architecture in remote (and often sensitive) natural locations, to create small thresholds where man meets nature, where minimal environmental footprint and limited access call for an economy of means.

And we are fond of designing tiny spaces — creating places rich in human interactions and intricate functions where people can really "key in" with the architecture, bringing back the simple joy of being together, sheltered from the elements.

But as importantly, cabins also act as social nodes where the complex community of the different generations in a family or in a group of friends congregate, each with their different needs, expectations and desires, making for a challenging but fascinating briefing process.

This redesign of a seaside cabin in Hvitsten, on the shore of the Oslo fjord, brought all these aspects together and was a nice counterpoint to our earlier design of a skiing winter cabin in the mountains of Hedmark.

A small stream flowing between the existing cabins

About the project

As is often the case with Norwegian cabins, our clients for this project spanned over three generations. Initially built in the 1950s by the great-grandfather, the summer cabin and its small sleeping annex have been used ever since by the family for spring and summer holidays.

The extended families are now struggling to all fit in the cabins, which has become both too small and in need of repair. Now retired, the grandfather and his partner also want to use the cabin a lot more throughout the year, so they needed the uninsulated cabin to be upgraded for the winter climate and wished to have a real bathroom installed.

All had cherished childhood memories of the cabin and wanted to preserve as much of its exterior aspect and rustic character as possible. So, their requirement to comfortably fit in up to twelve sleeping guests for occasional extended family gatherings called for inventive remodelling and renovation, considering their tight budget!

Looking at the existing cabins

Perched against a steep rocky hillside overlooking the sea, the cabins face south-west into a breathtaking view of the Oslo fjord and its slow ballet of sailboats and cruise ships.

The Oslo fjord, as seen from the main cabin

Plans of the existing cabins

In the main cabin, the small living room actually had a large window opening towards the fjord, but the kitchen and meal area — central to family life in the cabin — were situated behind it, in the darkest part of space of cabin, right against the rock face to the north. The other facades of the cabin were essentially blind because of a small hallway and the two bedrooms to the west. As a result, the main daytime social spaces had no visual connection with either the covered porch to the south-west or the sleeping cabin to the west, both of them often used in the mornings and evenings for informal meals and drinks.

Typical of spaces with light coming from only one direction, this configuration made the living room and meal area appear strangely gloomy, as the large window created a glare effect in contrast with the other darker and unlit interior surfaces. Built to look straight onto the fjord through this large window, the space had only short interior perspectives, making it appear more cramped and small than it actually was.

Situated a few meters downhill and to the west, the sleeping annex had a quiet simplicity to it, nested in the overgrown vegetation and straddling a small stream in the rocks. Unfortunately, an improvised shower had been installed inside a few years back without proper ventilation and created damp problems, so that in addition to being overcrowded, its sleeping rooms had also become uncomfortable.

Welcoming everyone

The initial plan was to integrate the existing porch into the main cabin, to create an extra bedroom. While this made sense to accommodate more guests, we all agreed that this compounded some of the existing problems, in particular closing off the main cabin from the fjord.

From two to fourteen sleeping guests! (click for full size) 

Turning the problem around, we actually removed one bedroom from the main cabin, thus keeping only one for the most frequent occupants of the cabin: the grand-father and his partner.

We carefully checked the feasibility of our proposal by preparing a comprehensive list of use scenarios, from one couple to up to fourteen sleeping guests! We found that moving the shower out of the sleeping annex, ventilating it properly and making some slight adjustments to its interior layout and bedding would allow eight people to comfortably sleep there. All this could be done at minimum cost, so that most of the available budget could be dedicated to the main cabin.

Now remained the task of optimising the shared daytime spaces in the main cabin. And this was essential: every parent can imagine the intense atmosphere when up to three families, including young children, are stuck together indoors for a whole rainy afternoon! Thus, in addition to creating functional living quarters, we also needed to organise sub-spaces within this small cabin, so that everyone could define his or her comfortable own space.

A niche in the rocks

We approached this task from two different angles.

Our design strategy for the remodelling the main cabin, drawn over the plan of the existing cabin (click for full size).

First, we created two different sub-spaces: one for the adults, facing the fjord, more social and relaxing, and one more playful for the children, cradled against the vegetation of the shaded cliff face. These two spaces intersect around the dinner table, the natural converging point for the whole family.

Then, we connected these spaces to the outdoors by nesting these sub-spaces around generous openings — not just towards the fjord, but also towards the sleeping cabin wrapped in overgrown vegetation down to the west, the mossy rocks at the north and the sunbathed terrace to the south — to create a dual feeling of spaciousness and enclosure.

Sketch impression of the remodeled seaside cabin, looking across the living room

Although the main living space remains compact, it feels opened to the light patterns and textures of its natural surroundings.

Frequently eating out during the summer months, the kitchen and dining area extend out onto a terrace that is stepping down, so as to maintain unobstructed views of the sea horizon, even when terrace parasols are used or the large awning on the south facade is deployed. The terrace also acts as a connecting point between the main cabin, the play garden and the shaded path to the sleeping cabin.

The proposed plan for the main cabin (click for full size)

Fitting it all together

Space was very limited inside the main cabin, so we concentrated most of the storage along the west wall, designed as a large oak surface perforated by the kitchen and large window niche where children can sit and play. To make sure that everything fitting nicely, we produced a detailed specification for these densely fitted interior — both in Norwegian and in English, at the clients' request.

We love to involve our clients in the building process. And since one of them is keen on woodworking, we had a design session together to develop together the design of open screen between kitchen and sitting, which also will also integrate coat/shoe storage, seating, a book shelf and the TV equipment. He will later on build it himself.

The very basic existing drainage and electric systems were upgraded to cater for the new bathroom and appliances. The cladding was damaged and needed replacing, so we insulated the whole building fabric and fitted new energy-efficient windows. Along with a flexible shading system and ample provisions for natural ventilation, our clients will be able to enjoy their cabin all-year round!


Portfolio project
Squint: a micro-exhibition module

Thibaut Devulder

Mining some of our old files recently, we dug up this little gem from 2006: a mobile exhibition module we called Squint. It's an installation we originally designed for a competition in Calgary, for the temporary transformation of an urban space situated under a railway bridge.

Squint in the streets of Calgary (from our competition entry in 2006)

Excited by the idea of the self-building something we would then send to the other side of the world, we took the approach of a foldable crate system that could be deployed in an unlimited number of configurations, playfully modulating the openness — or enclosure — of the micro exhibition space it hosted.

Set on its site and then manipulated by the public, the articulated and perforated little structure offered glimpses of its content to passers-by, "leaking" some of its content to the surrounding urban space.

In another context: Nottingham's Exchange Arcade...

And of course, for easy transportation, the whole thing can be neatly folded into a tiny, self-contained crate containing both the panels and the exhibition materials, ready for shipping!

This was a fun little project and maybe something to prototype again?
Interested? Get in touch with us!

Weaving space: an exhibition of student design work

Tom Hughes

The Master level architecture studio project that 2hD's Tom and Alina ran at Nottingham Trent University this year has concluded with an exhibition in the University's Arkwright building.

The exibition was designed by Alina and featured a dress by fashion designer Kula Tsurdiu (the project client) alongside selected work from the architecture students.

exhibitionpanorama

Portfolio project
A skiing cabin on Sjusjøen

Thibaut Devulder

Entrance of the existing cabin

Planning permission has been granted to our project on the stunning settings of Sjusjøen, north of Lillehammer, Norway.

Overlooking the well-known Norwegian cross-country ski resort, this small mountain cabin, built in the late 1960s by the client's parents, had become too small for her extended family. The client wanted to remodel and extend it to accommodate family gatherings. With no running water in the kitchen and only two sleeping spaces, the cabin also lacked sufficient indoor storage to accommodate more than two guests.

Emotionally attached to the cabin, the client wanted our intervention to address these issues, yet preserve the modest scale of the building, as well as most of its interior and exterior finishes and furniture — some of them hand-made by her father.

We tackled the challenge by extending the cabin towards the west. Shifting the entrance to the other side of the cabin greatly simplified winter access, avoiding snow drifts from the roof and reaching out closer to the car parking space. More importantly, this allowed us to create a central spine running through the extension.

Linking together the extension and the existing cabin, this spine accommodates extensive storage spaces serving the master and guest bedrooms, where luggage can be droppped on arrival without cluttering the living rooms.

Clad in timber slats, contrasting with the other materials of the cabin, the spine acts a functional and visual link between old and new, sheltering the sleeping quarters from the common spaces.

At the end of the spine, minimal reorganisation of internal partitions allowed for a compact and comfortable kitchen and bathroom, with minimum alterations to the existing plumbing.

The wind lobby and storage were moved from the original access to the new entrance, with the addition of a ski preparation room. In their place, a new living room was modelled into the existing building fabric — opening up the cabin to the fantastic views to the wild marsh on the east and the sun's warmth to the south.

Externally, the extension matches the scale and appearance of the existing cabin. The two bodies however are connected by a section with a lower roof and cladding matching the sheltering slats of the existing entrance, clearly identifying the new from the old.

Inside, most of the floor and wall finishes of the existing wing are preserved. The new spaces, to the west and south, however, contrast with their sloped ceiling and stained boarding.