Space and Inspace

Feature by Mark Daniels | 03 Feb 2010
  • Ruairi Glynn

Every day we share encounters with others as we inhabit the space around us, but the space itself doesn’t learn, it’s not part of the shared experience. The notion of an active architecture, of environments that cherish and respond to the people they contain, sounds like the stuff of science fiction. Simple embedded devices that give a little slap and tickle back are nothing new: think of the amusement park funhouse, mirror maze or my personal favourite the classic Noah’s Ark at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. One blast of air up your trouser leg will bring a smile to your face and to those coming up behind you that have shared the moment. You like it. They like it. If the space could learn your collective preferences, it could deploy these little slices of joy as and when you need them. Think of it in the context of the social media driven information technology advancements of recent years. Tick the box. Let your environment be your Facebook friend.

Our underlying research at Inspace in Edinburgh is into smart spaces and responsive environments. We’re breathing life into the gallery using formal and ad-hoc networks of wired and wireless sensors such as RFID tags or the smartphone in a visitor’s pocket coupled with devices for capturing more complex data like body movement or facial expression. We’ll take this information and make Inspace blush in response for you. It’s less Big Brother than you might think and more symbiotic in concept; if you don’t like it, you can uncheck the box. To design interactions you need a little knowledge about the end user. It should be led by and for the people. Architecture is about depth and movement through space. When the architecture starts to learn, we start to create new kinds of spatial experience. It’s an architecture of flux, a blurring of the analog and the digital. It’s where the smoke and mirrors are evolving systems driven by the kind of algorithms that fuel your account. The experience is richer, the more we allow ourselves to discover.


Artist Ruairi Glynn will be leading a workshop developing a response to the architectural context of Inspace through the theme of digital skin. 18 & 19 Feb, 18.00.