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When the architecture world was still using 2D and 3D animation techniquesto represent their projects, Pierre Schneider and François Wunschel were busy reappropriating them for design and analysis, until the moving image itself became their sculptable raw material.
Coming from a generation for whom associating ephemeral with perennial is no longer a paradox, these two ex-members of the collective eXYZt—E for energy, T for time—have hardcoded into their DNA the immersive power of sound. As videomapping pioneers, they have been building passageways between digital art and recyclable buildings since 2005. And they must be at least a lightyear ahead for CERN to ask them to simulate the subatomic experiments of a particle scanner…?
Their name defines their field of activity—between physical and digital architecture, 1024 corresponds to the standard resolution of a screen or video projector (1024 or 512x512 pixels).
When you make digital art, you need to know how to take apart computers, to be a bit of a VJ, and an architect while you’re at it, in order to better understand the space, especially when you’re interested in mapping.
Mapping? Augmenting an object or a space through video projection—adding an extra dimension that is commanded by images, such as notions of movement or texture, thus altering our perception of reality.
After graduating from École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris la Villette, Pierre Schneider and François Wunschel chose as their subject scaffolded residential buildings that they could transform according to their needs; in parallel, they explored visual arts and various media related to moving images.
In architecture, the dynamics, changes, development and especially transformation process of a building were very hard to relate in the form of a map, mock-up or still images. So we used animated films for our presentations—3D, modeling clay or stop motion—to speed up time and show its impact on the building. It was at the Mapping Festival in 2005 that they discovered the world of VJing, even before they realized that videomapping would become a discipline in itself.
Their first intervention in the field— code name SET, for Station Extra Territoriale—targets the Agbard Tower designed by Jean Nouvel in Barcelona. For the EME3 festival, under the brand eXYZt and the theme of the fourth dimension, the architects virtualize the façade of a building positioned 100 meters below the tower as a launch ramp, creating the illusion of Agbard’s immediate take-off amidst a rapidly evolving Spain. They follow up with a series of projects in France and abroad: GRrrrrridwave is a veritable virtual skin in 3D for the Métavilla of the French pavilion, which attracted attention during the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2006, while its designers were already thinking about stage devices for international DJs…
Breaking away from eXYZt in 2007, they create 1024 architecture to sign Square Cube, an installation for Étienne de Crécy, one of the figureheads of “French touch electro fresh”. The 6x6-meter structure made for Les Transmusicales de Rennes tours around the world, but it’s the Boom Box that truly reveals their identity to the public, with its giant 16x8-meter “Ghetto Blaster” created especially for La Nuit Blanche d’Amiens in 2008. It’s simple and efficient: a symbolic image of the dance machine is mapped onto a scaffolded structure, then gradually whirls into visual abstraction. With a game console controller used to interface with the “boom boxer”, homemade software developed to manage interactions between image and sound and a few extra strobe lights, thousands of people dance in the streets of Enghien-les-Bains a few years later in 2011, chanting “Every-body is upset!” to a tempo set by a DJ perched in the virtual tape deck in the middle of the lake of this popular off-site playspot.
The duo responds to commissions just as much as they initiate their own projects. Their reputation grows through the festival circuit with monumental productions such as 3D Bridge, featuring interactive luminous cubes on the Pont Saint-Louis produced with the We Love Art team for Nuit Blanche 2010, and the scenography for “Electro Night” in the Grand Palais— 15,000 m2 to fill in 24 hours—with the producer of cultural events Artevia in 2011. But creating their little show Euphorie, which is performed in a theater—in Le Mans, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Strasbourg and at Tech Fest in Mumbai—seems just as essential, even vital, to the two performers.
This story of a little pixel that, through interactions between sound and image, grows to the point of forming a totally immersive space, also gives the artists the pleasure of directing themselves on stage and singing!
MadMapper for all
We like to do projects with a wide range of scales, budgets and timelines, as they allow us to be independent of architectural cycles, where projects can take up to three years, from the sketch to the finished structure. Small projects, which are often more artistically inclined, is where they research and experiment with ideas and techniques whose impact is reinjected into a more consequential event or construction.
In collaboration with Garage Cube, the Swiss organizers of Mapping Festival and developers of the VJing software Modulate, 1024 architecture developed MadMapper, an engine conceived specifically for video mapping, which consists of repositioning video elements in space. We wanted to capitalize on our plug-ins with programmers of the highest level. Commercializing the program [sold for 299 euros per licence] financed our ongoing software development, while creating an emulator for the field. Algorithms that automatically reposition the point of view or scan a space in 3D with a video projector are among the technical developments that François takes the time to upload online in the form of tutorials for other videomappers, either novice or converted.
While they conceive projects together, François Wunschel is more involved in the virtual aspects such as interface and software development, while Pierre Schneider is attached to the concrete relationships with space, constructions and raw matter. The complementary duo has only one assistant, Cinzia. We work with a number of freelancers and delegate producers such as We Love Art, with whom we collaboration regularly. But we main-tain a certain autonomy.
Using the same methodology as architects as well as the same tools (3DS Max or Autocad for modeling software), 1024 architecture works with an economy of means and simplified production, choosing to collaborate with local and operational producers, according to the project. It’s a way to travel light, to sollicit as many on-site resources as possible and to use standard manufactured parts that we can find anywhere in the world! Indeed, their structures contain construction site materials such as scaffolding, containers, plastic tarpaulins, etc., in addition to stage lights and video projectors for optimal visual impact. However, if lighting is more and more permanently integrated into buildings, videomapping still requires costly equipment with too limited a lifespan to use beyond the short-term of a specific event or live performance.
Architecturally, we deliver buildings that could be considered alternative, portable or collapsible; we work with recyclable mate-rials that are dear to us and within timeframes that seem much more suited to our current considerations. A prime example is the restaurant/bar/open-air café Les Grandes Tables de l’île, conceived on Île Seguin along the Seine near Paris. It’s a friendly venue in a bucolic setting inaugurated in September 2011, which 1024 architecture worked on for two years while waiting for the upcoming “Jean Nouvel cruise liner” dedicated to culture and recreation. The space covers 11.5 hectares, formerly occupied by Renault factories, on which had been planned a temporary garden landscaped by Michel Desvigne, with lively meeting places that are easily built and dismantled after four or five years. 1024 architecture won the Grandes Tables project: an architectural hybridization between an agricultural greenhouse, a barge and a timber-frame house, modeled after a large wood fibre box suspended in a scaffolded structure from which freight containers hang, all encompassed beneath a transparent umbrella. As for the lighting: We wanted the building itself to be a neon sign. In any case, the architects of the night (who a few years ago had redesigned one of Paris’ trendiest clubs, Le Social Club) used neon LEDs to highlight the nocturnal profile of Les Grandes Tables. Open for lunch, the building is available for private events at night, and nothing prevents them from augmenting the façade with videomapping. The dance space was inaugurated by their favorite DJ, Étienne de Crécy, in September 2011.
The minimal graphic esthetics of 1024 are clearly influenced by the concept of lines and planes. Coming from the world of architectural representation, 1024’s radical and minimalist style consists of regulating markers and geometric constructive lines. Yet, depending on the project, our “Mad Mappers” will work on lighting design and experiment with the most expressionistic transformations of perception, such as for the Festival of Lights in Lyon, where Perspective lyrique consisted of breathing new life into the Théâtre des Célestins through exaggerated shadows and Frank Gehry-inspired distorsions.
For us, architecture is made to welcome living beings, and we explore ways in which it can become human, responsive, playful, with a whole range of generations who each appropriates the installation in a different way. Perspective lyrique is literally how to make a building dance through the sound of your voice. The interactive installation whose façade was videomapped was interfaced with a microphone that, through the audience’s singing, could change the building’s form. The experience has since been reiterated in Singapore and in Ghent, Belgium.
Simulating the invisible
During the Festival of Lights in Lyon, CERN scientists discover the work of the virtualist architects and invite them to design an educational mapping system—an emblematic and, why not, playful spectacle that would explain to general public what they’re doing in the center of the Earth. During the annual maintenance period of their accelerators, they invited the 1024 duo to visit the site and particularly the CMS, one of the four particle detectors, the scanner: a disc with a diameter of 9 km spread between French and Swiss territory, spinning 100 meters underground… Faced with so many scientific and financial issues, how to convey and explain to the public what is invisible to the naked eye? For the past six months, 1024 architecture has been examining what is still just a project under review, but it’s clear that in the graphic research work developed by François (the quantum physics geek of the team) and Pierre, there is a common language between the natures of this particule that so interests CERN, and those that are projected from a 3D graphics engine.
Mapping festival http://mappingfestival.ch/2012/
Perspective Lyrique http://1024d.wordpress.com/category/event-project/perspective-lyrique/
Square Cube www.1024architecture.net/en/2009/11/square-cube/
Les Grandes Tables www.1024architecture.net/en/2010/05/les-grandes-tables/
Published in Digitalarti Mag #9
Digitalarti Mag, the international magazine about art and digital innovation
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1024 Architecture anne cecile worms ARTIST, ARTWORK eesi Jason Cook mapping Object Avatar Peter William Holden robert stadler by
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