Opened on March 1st, 2019, the XXII Triennale di Milano, Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival, highlights the concept of restorative design and studies the state of the threads that connect humans to their natural environments––some frayed, others altogether severed.
The Broken Nature exhibition at the Triennale Milan begins with “The Room of Change” and visitors find themselves at the apex of the show’s theme, with an installation that speaks to the heart and the brain; provoking emotion and reflection.
The room hosts 2 big screens projecting images of our earth changing from above from the NASA Archive and covering the past 20 years.
Satellite images by NASA show the impact of human intervention on the environment—between melting glaciers and structures so invasive they change the landscape forever.
Cerebral though it is, the exhibition hits hard.
On the walls surrounding these two screens is a large tapestry work of data design by Accurat ( a data design studio with offices in Milan and New York )
For ‘The Room of Change’ Accurat created a 30-meters-long hand-crafted data-tapestry illustrating how multiple aspects of our environment have changed in the past centuries, how they are still changing, and how they will likely continue changing, addressing many of the topics presented in the exhibition.
With this installation, Accurat questions a communication made only of data and numbers and suggests a change of scale and perspective.
Combining several different data sources depicting the world from both global and local-individual perspectives, the installation tells stories of people and their relationship with what has been around them over time, layering dense and granular information within the narration to highlight how change is pervasive at all scales.
Gabriele Rossi, Giorgia Lupi and their team at Accurat, have visualized global phenomena (such as the increase in world population and temperatures, diseases, energy consumption ) alongside more local topics (such as the disappearance of Lake Aral or the decline in life expectancy in Cambodia) and created a sort of graphic tapestry.
A legend accompanies the piece to explain the global framework and how to read the individual stories.
The legend is placed at the center of the room, inviting visitors to discover our changing world from a privileged perspective: a pedestal to navigate the big changes in the same way you would look at mountain range with the help of a navigating map.
“ This is a show for citizens; we want them to leave with a sense of the long term, and the sense that complexity is our friend, not our enemy.
We also want citizens to leave these galleries having a sense of what they can do in their everyday lives,” …………….. Paola Antonelli
The data represented begin in 1000 B.C. and run into a speculative future ending in 2400, echoing some of the exhibition’s overall aims.
The tapestry complements the “bigger scale” of the projections with a type of story about change that could be relatable, smaller and connected to our everyday lives and our mundane experience.
With this premise, our guiding principle was the idea that most of the change we experience is only shown to us from far away and high above.
At first glance, a visitor might not even realize that data is the organizing principle of the motif.
However, the data-driven wallpaper creates a morphing visual pattern that unveils the importance of a perpetual interplay of scales and dimensions when assessing change, and illustrates the evolution of many recurring themes of the show: a subtle and poetic tapestry depicting change, from our past to our present to our future.
The piece revolves around eight macro topics that organize information, all related to humans, but that reveal consequences that oftentimes affect us and other species simultaneously.
Each horizontal stripe depicts the evolution over time of one single story of change, told thru a combination of datasets on the topic evolving over time.
From left to right, time flows on the wall through the visual patterns, covering our past, our present, and our future; and where each of the visual components defining the pattern is a theme, and each vertical section of the wall becomes a snapshot of a precise moment frozen in time
They are illustrated through a number of global data sets (world population, average temperatures, disease rates, energy consumption, et cetera) to frame large-scale phenomena with broad strokes as well as single and specific stories that will directly or indirectly represent the micro consequences of the large-scale phenomena (such as the disappearing Aral Sea, the dip in life expectancy in Cambodia during its civil war, the quick shift in South Korean exports from agricultural products and commodities to high tech, and more).
The research and design have been conducted with a deliberately humanistic approach: data represents real life, it is a snapshot of the world just as a picture captures a small moment in time.
Numbers are always placeholders for something else, a way to capture a point of view—but sometimes this can get lost.
In fact, even if we are depicting “data”, this data needs always to speak to us – human beings – it is always based on subjective collection and interpretation and will always have different meanings for different people.
As designers, the more we are able to combine – “colder” and more sterile type of data, with layers of contextual, smaller and more relatable type of information, the more meaningful results we can achieve.
Accurat –Giorgia Lupi, Gabriele Rossi, Nicola Guidoboni, Giovanni Magni, Lorenzo Marchionni, Andrea Titton, Alessandro Zotta, 2019,
Accurat couples high-end design with low-level data, crafting intelligent, user-centric solutions for global leaders in business, government, and media.
We work collaboratively with our clients to uncover key organizational challenges, develop new processes and workflows, and deploy internal and external data visualizations, interfaces, and tools that drive insight and engagement
Thanks to our hands-on expertise around visualization challenges and data-heavy projects, we have, over the past six years, developed and refined our own design methodology, which is based on four core principles:
We embrace complexity
Complexity is an inherent feature of our world. It should be embraced, not feared or avoided in an effort to simplify things that are naturally rich and multifaceted.
Important business and strategic decisions take time and require a deep knowledge of the domain and of the elements at play in a specific context; our goal is to support and facilitate better-informed decisions, not to force a simplification of complex scenarios.
We pursue beauty.
Beauty is not a frill. We know how to engage and motivate people to dig deeper and take time to explore the intricacies of a visual data analysis.
We deploy our rigorous methods to achieve the ideal balance between familiar visual motifs and unexpected aesthetics, a powerful combination that leverages studies on perception to trigger curiosity and interest, and creates indelible images in the minds of users
We don’t rely on standards.
Every situation is different, and every challenge brings infinite variables that cannot be reduced to cookie-cutter processes and solutions.
We never bend design problems to what a tool can offer out of the box, or to a ready-made solution; we take advantage of standard visual solutions to quickly explore and assess a dataset, but we believe in applying core principles of data visualization when building custom solutions that are specifically designed for each situation.
We know data are not just numbers.
Numbers don’t mean anything by themselves; they don’t exist in a vacuum, but are a placeholder for something else: people, places, ideas, values.
We always take into consideration what data stands for, and what it means for the people who will interact with it.
We ask ourselves what numbers ultimately represent in a given context, and we build experiences that acknowledge and leverage this knowledge by bringing our users closer to the ideas represented by the quantitative and qualitative aspects of information.