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Nature as a Model: Architecture that appeals to all senses

A spectacular trade fair installation featured the public launch of a programmable lighting structure utilizing item profile technology.

Innovation and creativity were the focal point at the 2017 Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology (EDIT), a 10-day event that showcased innovations in healthcare, housing, education and food. The highlight at EDIT was the installation “Wild Abode”. It was a feast for the senses and invited visitors to immerse themselves in another world. At the same time, the architectural installation vividly demonstrated how unusual solutions can emerge when architecture takes nature as its model. Wild Abode was designed for the home-building company Great Gulf by STACKLAB, a multidisciplinary art and design studio, and the branding firm Community Agency.

Design at item: functional, timeless and award-winning

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Lightframe Was the Heart of the Installation

The 13-foot-tall, 625 square foot exhibit was a double premiere. Simultaneously, Lightframe, a flexible lighting structure based on item’s extruded aluminium profiles, was used here for the first time. Lightframe was created by STACKLAB and Boston-based architect Jonathan Enns in 2015 when Great Gulf requested a lighting system for trade shows and events. As STACKLAB founder Jeffrey Forrest explained, they chose profiles from the MB Building Kit System for two reasons: “The profiles have hollow cavities that can support electronics. And it is a pre-engineered system with a written spec.” STACKLAB’s mission at EDIT was to use Lightframe to artistically showcase Great Gulf’s environmentally friendly wood-construction systems.

The filled test tubes create the impression of countless leaves. (Photo credit: Alex Willms)

With Nature as a Model: Architecture as a Multisensory Experience

Wild Abode can be seen as a kind of abstract house that was gradually overgrown by pine trees. At the center, there was a figurative tree trunk, constructed out of salvaged twigs that wrapped around a column. Surrounding the figurative tree trunk at varying heights were seedlings and soil in test tubes, symbolizing leaves. They hung from a black-painted, CNC-milled poplar-plywood lattice trellis bolted to the existing concrete ceiling.

The LEDs emitted slow undulating waves of light, timed to simulate a body’s breathing and heartbeat.

Utilizing Lightframe’s programmable multicolor LED, the exhibit was both immersive and a multisensory experience: The LEDs emitted slow undulating waves of light, timed to simulate a body’s breathing and heartbeat. The floor of the exhibit was made of softwood (pine, redwood and spruce) mulch. The distinct scent of fresh pine could be smelled throughout the entire exhibit and throughout the entire show floor in EDIT – another reason for the popularity of Wild Abode. It was therefore impressive to see how nature as a model can still inspire architecture today.

Finalist in Prestigious SBID International Design Excellence Award

The complexity of Wild Abode brought significant attention not only during the event but also in the following months after the event. In July of 2018, Wild Abode was named a finalist in the „Public Spaces“ category of the SBID International Design Excellence Award, one of the most prestigious interior design awards. Jeffrey Forrest, Founder and Creative Director of STACKLAB, was thrilled to be nominated for this prestigious award: The quality of the experience and the strength of the message ultimately tie back to conscientious multidisciplinary design and collaboration. This is the brainchild of a team of developers, designers and skilled manufacturers who want to contribute to innovation in our built environment.”

The installation Wild Abode was a real eye-catcher at EDIT 2017. (Photo credit: Alex Willms)

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