“The Social Cave” @ Milan Design Week 2011

“The Social Cave” @ Milan Design Week 2011

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Furniture Fair of Milan, the Salone Satellite chief curator Marva Griffin invited the architecture and design Research Lab Non-Linear Solutions Unit of Columbia University to develop a small pavilion project in response to the question – “in what direction is design heading ( 50 years ahead )”.


The installation will be made from 100 per cent polystyrene polygons that will constantly reconfigure according to different users’ behaviours. While entering in the 100% recycled foam Cave, visitors are invited to interact with the projected “shadow” of the visitor beyond the barrier wall, initiating a conversation that transcends traditional digital-physical boundaries

The installation will be divided into two parts. Guests, who presumably don’t know each other, can enter the display through either side. They then meet in the middle of the display, though a special wall divides them, capturing the others’ movements through a projection.

Protected by the anonymity provided by wall, the strangers will then start a gestural conversation with each other as the wall reflects their movements. At the end of the track the people meet and can start a conversation based on their experiences.

The student designers say that modern socialization can often be divided into two reals. The first is a physical dimension of space that we usually share with people we know. The second is virtual, through websites like Facebook or Twitter, which doesn’t affect physical behaviour. The Social Cave installation is designed for socialization in a semi-public way that toys with peoples’ embarrassment when close to people they don’t know. ,,,,,,  “Social Cave” is a step towards making virtual reality a physical reality.

The designers are students at the Non-linear Solutions Unit at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. They have worked under the direction of architect Caterina Tiazzoldi and interaction designer Mirko Arcese.  The  Non-Linear Solution Unit (NSU), is an interdisciplinary lab at Columbia University’s prestigious architecture program, directed by Caterina Tiazzoldi with the help of interaction designer Mirko Arcese of BCAA.it.

The digital age has dissolved traditional conceptions of space. Whereas socialization once existed entirely within the physical realm, the virtual world has invited new rules and interaction within a previously unavailable dimension.

Growing virtual connectivity has certainly created a network of unlimited communication pathways. Yet while our social reach has extended, relationships spawned by the web often remain confined to the digital space in which they were initiated. The protection of that dematerialization is seductive; intimacy must no longer be defined by physicality. Emboldened by the blanket of physical anonymity, we may assert a redefined sense of privacy and closeness.

By merging physical and virtual space, how can design affect the changing vista of socialization? Can design encourage a new platform for interaction?

We were invited to design a small, interactive installation that would be encountered by hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom are strangers to each other. In response, we have proposed the Social Cave, a typology that returns to the beginnings of our civilization. The Cave will blend the frenzied excitement of virtual connectivity’s power and speed with the calm of its form and materiality, a parametric aggregation of 100% recycled and 100% recyclable foam cubes.

The barrier wall separating the two enclosures within the Cave ensures that visitors inhabiting each of those spaces are initially concealed from each other. The presence of a visitor in the opposite space is revealed only through an abstracted projection capturing his movements. The physical anonymity created by the enclosure allows each visitor to feel comfortable engaging in a digital and visual conversation with the projected “shadow” or “ghost” of the visitor opposite him. Gestures and personalities are therefore made familiar to each other before the initial physical meeting.

Thus, the Social Cave first hides and then exposes the proximity and identity of its visitors, allowing a conversation to begin that transcends traditional digital physical boundaries.

Using the last 3d motion capture technology like Kinect & OpenNi, plus VVVV, managed by custom software, this application “reads” human behaviours combining two different stages into one virtual space; where the phisycal limit represented by a wall, becames the interactive social scene.

sugar cube modelling

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