driving sensations

I listen to a great podcast on design and architecture called DnA from Los Angeles radio station KCRW.  DnA recently discussed a design studio called “Driving Sensations” conducted by the ArtCenter College of Design that focused on the design possibilities of modern autonomous vehicles.  Checkout the DnA blog post with the full details.

There are several amazing concepts that readily apply to the future of architectural lighting design.  Let me highlight a few that really struck me:

The concept is that while a driverless car needs to get you from point A to B, it’s otherwise a blank slate. It doesn’t need to look anything like the cars of today, aside from having wheels and an engine or motor.

Architectural interiors are the same way.  Blank, empty boxes that provide shelter.  But what is the future?  How will architecture become a portal to our virtual worlds?

The class, called “Driving Sensations,” focused on everything from how the car feels and smells, how it communicates with you, and what you actually see when you’re riding inside the car. There were four teams, comprised of students who are in various departments, from interactive design, product design and transportation design to graphic design, illustration and fine art.

To make responsive, interactive architectural spaces, the future of architectural design will become multidisciplinary far beyond the usual consultants on a typical building project.  UX designers of various ilks may become commonplace on an architectural construction team.

The entertainment-themed car brought in concepts from the worlds of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and gaming. In this prototype, the passenger sits in a pod-like car, with a glass dome that rotates as the car drives. And projected onto the glass can be your Facebook updates, Yelp reviews for restaurants you’re passing, Tinder messages, etc. It also can be what they call an “interactive game engine” in which the car puts you inside a video game world in which you can shoot alien spaceships out of the sky and watch buildings explode like in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Philippe Enzler is one of the members of that group. And he said his group’s mission was to “get rid of boredom.”

Wow…if that mix of proficiency is what modern “automotive” design will require, then what will modern “architectural” design require?  The confluence of electric drive trains, computer vision technology, and networking is launching “car design” from yesterday’s world of “a bigger V8 engine!!!!” into something that does indeed fit an Apple or a Google more than a Ford or Honda.  What’s the equivalent in lighting?  I’ve postulated previously that it is the integration of media systems and embedded lighting concepts that will rocket architectural interior design into the modern Internet world.

The DnA piece is an eye opener. It reminds me of this post I wrote several years ago, which included the quote:

Planet earth will don an electronic skin…when information technology becomes part of the social infrastructure, it demands design consideration from a broad range of disciplines. Social, psychological, aesthetic and functional factors must play a role in design. Appropriateness surpasses performance as the key to technological successes.

Designers in the future will be called upon to create spaces that are computationally enhanced. Rather than simply design traditional buildings and then add a computational layer, it is better to conceive and design this integration from the outset.