Collaborative interactive light installation project with Toyo Ito, 2008

“OKAMURA Design Space R” is an annual exhibition project by the furniture maker OKAMURA Corporation. The concept of these exhibitions is the collaboration between architects and creators from other fields. In 2007, Takram was invited by the internationally renowned architect Toyo Ito to join his collaboration.

In this project, the team designed a space with 280 glass furin (wind chimes) hanging from the ceiling. These furin pieces were arranged on a triangular grid with a wave-like undulation. Each furin detects human movements and emits a faint light while making a sound. These furin are assigned sounds from a scale of ten different tones. Those near the ceiling make high-pitched sounds, and those at the lower end make low-pitched sounds. Each furin is interconnected to the entire system, emitting light and sound that ripple to the neighboring furin. The experience is like walking inside a large musical instrument.

CONCEPT: An embodiment of swarm intelligence

At the first meeting, Ito talked about his thoughts on architecture in terms of a “stake” and a “flowing river.” “Many architects drive a stake inside a river, and say that that is his architectural expression. But what I want to consider is the whirlpool that emerges right behind the stake.” Rather than the construction itself, Ito is interested in its organic effects to the people and the place. Agreeing, members of the project became deeply involved in the conversation.

Based on Ito’s philosophy, Takram focused on animal and plant behavior in nature. For example, a group of fireflies begins to emit light at different intervals, but later match their rhythm by studying its neighbor. Ultimately, the entire group begins to synchronize like a single creature. The project was inspired by this phenomenon, and became an expression to recreate “a group without a leader.”

APPROACH: Local rules and global effects

This system is unique in that an individual is independent but is also connected to the network, and that no one assumes the leadership role. From a higher viewpoint, these simple interactions have the appearance of signals being sent out in a rippling pattern. Yet the rules are quite simple. Each individual is only responding to its neighbor, emitting light as a reaction to the other. We call this phenomenon a “local rule” and the “global effect.”

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