Curator’s Column: Nassia Inglessis on her London Design Biennale Installation

I’m the lead designer and founder of Studio INI, exhibiting the Greek Pavilion titled ΑΝΥΠΑΚΟΗ (pron. anipakoi) – Disobedience, in this year’s London Design Biennale.

ΑΝΥΠΑΚΟΗ is comprised of a 17 metre-long wall constructed from a steel spring skeleton built up with recycled plastic which flexes, morphs and breathes around the human body. Visitors can transgress through this analogue boundary, and as they tread, experience the skin of the wall transforming in response. The public are invited to participate in a mood of creative disobedience by transitioning from an obedient spectator to a disobedient actor, physically passing through the wall along an undulating walkway.

The design was created in response to the theme of Emotional States. My immediate reaction to this theme was to observe how the dynamic and interchangeable states of emotions exist in stark contrast to the static states of our built environment. Yet what if the static archetypes that define our built environment, in this case the wall, could be morphed, adapted and reshaped in response to our emotions?

I chose disobedience as it conveys an emotional journey, one that I feel reflects a core part of the creative process but also one that is linked to Greek temperament and history; you just need to look to Greek mythology for evidence of early explorations of the multi-faceted nature of disobedience across the tales of Ikarus, Antigone and Prometheus .

So we set out to discover: can we redefine our interaction with matter and architecture as we evoke the emotional act of disobedience?

Can we disobey any notion that architecture is static or emotionally inert? This is what in Studio INI is called creating an ‘augmented materiality’.

To me an augmented reality is a material one; an augmented materiality that seeks to address our need for transformation. Studio INI uses digital tools and computation that apply new technologies to the material world. Whereas the more commonly known ‘augmented reality’ enhances reality through layers of computer-generated information, ‘augmented materiality’ embeds interactive capability in matter itself and in this way connecting the material world directly to human perception and response.

In an augmented materiality, you play with the rules of logic, but you are still bound to unbreakable rules of physics and nature; gravity, friction, wind and rain. The biggest challenge of the project was creating a structural behaviour that has never been made before, using traditional (steel) and new (recycled HDPE) materials in new applications and designing it all around a disobedient human actor with unpredictable behaviour.

The biggest highs of the project have been seeing participants gain a sense that by stepping out of the preset or archetypal interaction, they can break reality outside of the computer screen. A sense of wonder in experiencing a direct dialogue of body and space in a physical megaphone to their movement. A sense of empowerment in their ability to re-construct their physical environment, break barriers, dissolve walls by movement, intent and emotion. We essentially present the visitors with the archetype of a wall, yet a wall that they deform just by their physical presence. What opportunities could this present for architectural or structural vernaculars in the future?

As a designer, a lot of my inspiration behind exploring the dialogue of body and space has come from the late Bauhaus artist, Oskar Schlemmer, whose 130th birthday fell on the public opening of London Design Biennale this year!

Studio INI operates between two cities, working in both Athens and our studio in Somerset House, London. Our design process is continually influenced by the unique personality of both cities, the diversity and endless inspiration of London and maverick creativity of Athens. However this project has also brought together international influences from Boston, Athens, Munich and London.