According to Mark Gage, architecture is more than just designing buildings.
"Our interest is to make environments. Most of the technology in architecture is about activating environments, plugging into the digital world, and working away from the screen into physical space," Mark told The Ultrabook™ Experience.
Mark is a one of two principle architects at the firm Gage/Clemenceau Architects, an assistant dean and professor at the Yale School of Architecture, and the head of a team of architects and interactive engineers creating installations for W Hotels and the Intel-inspired Ultrabook. These installations are part of the Four Stories short film series and competition and will be on display at W Hotels around the world.
Mark is also a theorist and an author, but above all, he is an architectural futurist, pushing the profession towards a more collaborative tomorrow.
The creations that have emerged from his studio in the Lower East Side of Manhattan look like they are decades ahead of their time. The firm has designed three concept stores for Lady Gaga's style consultant Nicola Formichetti, including a pop-up shop of faceted, mirrored surfaces. "Theoretically it collapsed architecture and fashion into a single surface," says Mark.
Gage/Clemenceau has also designed a vast portfolio of eye-popping projects around the world from libraries to private residences, parametric wall systems, conceptual bio-prosthetics, and solar flowers. Gage/Clemenceau's online portfolio is a trip down the sci-fi rabbit hole. Elements of scale are exaggerated at Taiwan's Khaosiung Pop Center, which appears like some immense floral outgrowth. The "Valentine to Times Square" sculpture from 2009 is a 30-foot bulbous, filigreed, pink heart.
But it's Mark's theory of collaborative architecture that's truly revolutionary. Mark spoke to The Ultrabook Experience about Aqueous Mass, a series of Ultrabook installations that will travel to W Hotels across the globe.
How did you create an installation around the Ultrabook?
Mark Gage: When we were coming up with the design we were looking at all sorts of environments, some of which were a little more sleek. But the ones that we were drawn to were the ones that were a little more primitive. We are looking at the relationship between super-high technology and how to produce a really primitive looking but super interactive environment.
Can you describe the Aqueous Mass in detail? Can you speak to the nature of the environment you were trying to create?
It's made from folded aluminum that doesn't need any welding. It's folded together and efficient in the way it was designed and constructed. It's about mobility, plugging into different kind of atmospheres, taking you to another place.
What I would like people to take away from this experience is that there is a future coming in architecture that's more interactive, that's more saturated. It's less about a single moment than about an ongoing experience enabled by a combination of form, interactivity, and new material. It's about moving people's preconceptions away from a static object to an idea about a space that we really inhabit.
And these new experiences are, in a sense, more than just architecture? It's about the dialogue between fashion, technology, and architecture.
Yes, the time for the "Starchitect" has passed. I think architects see that there isn't a lot of mileage left in that model.
I think the discipline of architecture as defined by a single author, by a single star, making a single object, making a single building was great for the last 600 years. I no longer think that it's sufficient with the technologies that we have at our disposal. Both in terms of communication technology and the expertise required to be good at any particular discipline.
Architecture, like any art, has a zeitgeist of what's contemporary at any given moment. This is the moment, now, that architecture has the computer. The computer is allowing us to have access to all these new forms of collaboration. What can we do now?
Any industry has a group of people at its forefront, and we like to think that we are at the forefront of defining how new technologies impact the world of architecture through collaboration with experts, but also with brands and clients.
And so you'll be working with a firm of experts in interactive environment design, Local Projects, on how the Ultrabook interacts with users inside the Aqueous Mass?
Yeah, it'll be really interesting to see where this collaboration takes us. We are hoping to create an effect where you swipe your hand in front of the aluminum surface, and it glows in different colors. There's still a lot to figure out, so stay tuned.