Text by Ana Prendes
Communicating engagingly is key no matter the medium. With over 20 years of delivering design experiences, the studio flora&faunavisions (FFV) triggers memories and emotions through human-centred digital design.
Founded by architect Leigh Sachwitz, FFV grew from side-line projects in the 1990s to become a cross-disciplinary team of boundless creativity. Sachwitz began her creative journey designing music clubs with slide and film projectors in the underground techno and house scene in East Berlin. The curation and design of the three-day festival Jugendmusik Festspiele in 1999 was FFV’s starting point.
Since then, their work has developed organically parallel to technological progress, spanning now from multidisciplinary experiences to 360º soft-edge projection mapping and responsive data installations. At some point, we said from VHS to high definition. Now we are saying from 4k to Unity, to generated content Sachwitz explained to CLOT.
flora&faunavisions’ hybrid practice spreads internationally across cultural institutions, artists, luxury brands, fashion houses and beyond. Embedded within The Magenta Moon Campus Berlin between 17th October – 1st November, their latest experiential work Magenta Moon Garden aimed to set the scene for next-level digital education. This immersive, 7m-high and 36m-long walkthrough video installation with Surrounding 5.1 sound comprises three different spaces (Sunrise Garden, Moon Garden, Magenta Moon), blending design, technology, game, interaction mechanics and architecture.
Composed of triple-layered digital walls and floor projections, a naturalistic and poetic background resembles a sci-fi planet landscape providing depth into the horizon of the fantasy garden. The animated middle and foreground layers integrate colourful and eye-catching elements – spheres, magenta flowers, bubbles, 3D sculptures, water moving as if in the outer space – which react to the movements of the visitors in real-time using radarTOUCH laser scanners.
The shifting yet predictable patterns of interactive sculptures were designed to create satisfying moments, in which the viewer knows what to expect – pleasing both mind and eye in an ASMR-like way. Inspired by how architecture and nature converge in urban landscapes, a variety of plants populate the space, living in symbiosis with the digital surroundings.
By moonlight, the magic of the garden is revealed by glowing exotic flowers and bright stars, accompanied by pleasant fragrances. The Moon Garden is an ecosystem to enjoy, interact, meditate and experience physical and digital nature through all the senses. The main result is the joy that you feel as soon as the public enters – and you see it all works. Seeing the kids run from one interactive element to the next is pure excitement. The whole room buzzed with energy. This was a huge reward Sachwitz told us.
Accompanied by a collateral programme, digital optimism is the overarching theme of the Magenta Moon Garden. Every half hour, the installation transforms into To the Moon! – an interactive game on sustainability, digitisation and media literacy. Through thought-provoking speech bubbles, this educational layer imparts competence in dealing with fake news, hate speech, conspiracy theories and cyberbullying. The idea behind the game was to start considering digital education and how young generations can learn about important topics whilst being fascinated and moving around in an interactive space. FFV exemplifies how immersive design can play a role in the future of education, foreseeing how classrooms may look in a digital society and encouraging critical thinking in a playful and hands-on way.
The conceptual process of the project started in May, amidst the first lockdown. The vision of the space aimed to deliver inspiration and solutions for some of the most challenging issues that our society is currently facing, which became even more present during the pandemic, commented Sachwitz by email. Working remotely across different locations, FFV’s cross-disciplinary team completed the design phase in 4 months, including many virtual and in-studio setup-tests to tweak the prototypes. Within a 2-week construction period, the installation was brought to life at the Leipziger Platz in Central Berlin. The final exhibition build-up invited people of different ages to test on-site to adjust the interactivity and intuitiveness of the experience.
Social-distancing measures have also greatly influenced the exhibition’s design. flora&faunavisions developed a no-touch concept and choreographed a user journey to ensure that visitors would be able to keep their distance. Without invasive text-based signs that might disturb the poeticness of the garden, the team cleverly planned a visual coding language for the space and furniture distribution. “Design surrounds us and shapes our everyday lives.
Beautiful spaces, objects and visuals can provide positivity and inspiration. This also means that we need to accept the necessity of human-centred design. There is a basic need – and in my perspective a basic right for it.” Sachwitz defended. FFV’s approach exemplifies how innovative and creative design which responds to current needs will lead the transformation of cultural, educational and working spaces.
Reflecting on the move towards hybrid event formats, the Magenta Moon Campus managed to combine digital and physical in a coherent way. The programme included workshops, podcasts, webinars and maker-sessions, with more than 500 events across 2 weeks. Following this years’ trend of big online festivals, the highlights of Magenta Moon can now be explored online.
These phygital (physical meets digital) approaches may lead the future of cultural experiences in a post-covid society. Combining online and live experiences is just the logical development to combine the best of both worlds. It combines the beauty of real-life encounters with remote common experiences over time zones and continents. Ground-breaking and challenging design will offer new spaces for safe real-life encounters, encouraging everyone to look forward to the future with curiosity and optimism during uncertain times.