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Immersive Installation Fraktur Wins DesignTO Award

January 28, 2019

Toronto Met’s DAS [R]Ed[U]x] Lab (external link)  team of Casey Li, Martina Cepic, Monika Mitić, Nan Xiao, Adrian Chîu, Arnel Español, Casey Li, Henry Mai’s living walls design Fraktur  has won the DesignTO juror’s choice award.  Advancing the overall purpose of the [R]Ed[U]x Lab (external link)  as bridgingthe gap between emerging technologies and contemporary standards, Fraktur seeks to transform a static everyday object, a wall,  into a seemingly living, “breathing” structure.

One of the contributors, Casey Lai, commented on the inspiration behind the design: “The living wall was inspired by wanting to create an installation that was not only interactive but had the ability to be a different experience based on multiple visits. From looking at how humans interact with systems in nature such as coral reefs and different vegetation, we wanted to create something that could invoke the feeling of encroaching on a living creature and the defense mechanisms seen in nature.”

Replicating this particular concept found in nature proved a challenge to design and to bring to life.  According to team member Arnal Espanol: “The process began with our collective fascination with the act of inflation found in organisms such as puffer fish and cacti, just to name a few. We wanted to carry out the idea of inflation, so we began experimenting with fans and plastic bags to get a sense of how this expression could be achieved. To refine the craftsmanship of our initial prototype and ultimately the end product, we used the digital design and fabrication tools at our disposal to create the skin of the installation. The biggest challenge throughout the process was tasking ourselves with creating impact and complexity while using simplistic materials and sensing-actuation systems.” The result is a design that disturbs, challenges and forces the participant to consider their movements and the subsequent response it evokes.  

It is the interplay between inspiration, technical design build learning, hands-on extracurricular projects and community networks that provide opportunities for student participation that makes Toronto Met a unique incubator of design projects. This project would not have been possible without the extracurricular components of the DAS program and the mentorship of Professor Vincent Hui, who leads the [R]Ed[U]x Lab (external link) :  a collective of digital fabricators and designers from Toronto Metropolitan University’s Department of Architectural Science, seeking to investigate the use of digital fabrication and interactive technologies in projects ranging from household products to entire urban installation pieces.

Extracurricular aspects of the DAS program push students to think outside of the box, to implement and oversee design build projects from start to finish. As well, it provides students with the invaluable experience of applying theoretical knowledge to the first-hand experience of designing, constructing and exhibiting their work outside of the Department.  With Fraktur, the team hopes to show what’s possible when architectural design integrates nature in new and interesting ways.