The future of interactive architecture on display in Amsterdam

AUAS co-organiser Media Architecture Biennale

18 Jun 2021 13:20

Technology affects us imperceptibly and can help society, but it can also undermine it. Awareness of this fact is at the heart of the Media Architecture Biennale (MAB), which is to be held in the Netherlands from 24 June to 2 July. It will culminate in the MAB Awards on 2 July, showcasing the world’s most sensational interactive buildings, installations and artworks.

The Media Architecture Biennale is set to come to Amsterdam next week, following previous editions in Vienna, Sydney and Beijing. Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) is organising this online edition of the MAB in conjunction with Utrecht University and the Media Architecture Institute from Vienna.

Invisible data

The theme of this edition is Futures Implied. Main organiser Martijn de Waal, professor of Civic Interaction Design at AUAS: ‘We will be reflecting on the rise of interactive systems in cities and in architecture. On the one hand, this technology is a prominent feature on the streets. Take, for instance, giant screens on streets or squares, such as on Times Square, or interactive façades, such as at the Ziggo Dome.

At the same time, there is a rise in applications that are not immediately visible and yet have a significant effect on our space. Consider in this regard digital platforms, sensors that measure footfall or particulate matter – all data amassed for the smart city. What values are contained therein? That is what we need to be thinking about, as technology is not neutral. It can serve a common purpose, but it can also undermine it.’

Levenslicht. Photo credits: Studio Roosegaarde

Telling a story

Hence, technology’s underlying values will be a focal point at this edition of the MAB. For example, can an interactive building or artwork help to tell a story or create a collective memory? Can an interactive installation involve citizens or promote sustainability?

Telling examples will be featured at the MAB Awards , the biennial awards show to which more than 120 projects from all over the world applied. Studio Roosegaarde is one of the 15 nominees contending, with its Holocaust memorial Levenslicht .

Other contenders include ANTopolis , a screen where passers-by see their faces illustrated in ants, reminding people that they are part of a larger ecosystem. Or a ‘festival’ in São Paolo, which saw more than 50 artists project their media art onto walls in the city to support residents during social isolation.

Role of AUAS

Several researchers and lecturers from AUAS are involved in the Biennale. Frank Suurenbroek, professor of Spatial Urban Transformation, is a co-organiser, and Stan Majoor, professor of Coordination of Urban Issues, is a speaker. The convergence of many forms of innovation from the professional sphere will be productive for the university of applied sciences and give rise to new collaborations.

New type of designer needed

One of the reasons for AUAS to organise the MAB, is the growing need for a new type of designer. The use of media architecture in urban design has many implications, which designers and architects must be able to take into account.

According to De Waal, ‘Designers now need to understand not only how a city works but also digital platforms. Public spaces are becoming responsive, and architects will soon not only design buildings but also have to factor in an app for use of pool cars to ensure that fewer parking spaces need to be created’.

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