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Softspace

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A conference at Tate Modern, London, Sat 8 Sept 2007, to mark the launch of 4dsocial: interactive spatial environments, the Aug/ Sept 2007 issue of AD. Guest editor and curator: Lucy Bullivant.

→ Conference video on Tate website



Usman Haque, Open Burble, Singapore Biennale 2006
© Usman Haque. Photo: Eng Kiat Tan


The physically permanent identity of architecture has helped to define society for centuries. Now some practitioners have disengaged from tectonics as we traditionally understand it and are taking their discipline into the realms of 'softspace', a more fluid, ephemeral form of digitally-enabled design based on personalised experiences and responses. Softspace deploys new spatial systems including wearable computing, wifi, RFID and custom-designed digital software incorporating light, heat, sound and electromagnetic fields. These not only rely on people's individual ways of interacting with them, but are enriched by narratives people contribute, creating new metaphors of use. Responsive environmental strategies of this kind have increasingly colonised museums and galleries like Tate, the Science Museum and the V&A.

While the notion of a fantasy world made possible 'on demand' by new technologies is the theme of films like Minority Report and ExistenZ, contemporary softspace projects play a more subtle and open-ended influence on contemporary socio-spatial dynamics and our sensing abilities.

Architects Usman Haque, Jason Bruges and Daan Roosegaarde and designer Despina Papadopoulos discussed the cultural implications of their work with Tate Modern curator Jane Burton and curator, author and critic Lucy Bullivant, guest editor of 4dsocial: Interactive Design Environments (AD/Wiley, 2007), chair of the conference. Lev Manovich, the new media art theorist, was a keynote speaker.

Supported by Wiley/AD and The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.