Disrupting Design

Walls that change colour to your touch: Fighting technological disconnection with more technology

Architecture students Robyn Thomson and Jessica Chen think that even though technology has made our lives easier, we've lost connection in the process.

These architecture students' FLUX installation connects people back to their tactile environment

Touching the FLUX installation at the Gladstone Hotel's Come Up To My Room event (CBC)

Robyn Thomson and Jessica Chen, architecture students at Ryerson University, think that even though technology has made our lives easier, we've lost something in the process — "our connection to our sense of touch and to the tactile aspects of our environments".

"As architecture students, we wanted to shake things up by using technology to connect us back to our environment," says Thompson. To do this, they built the FLUX installation for the Gladstone Hotel's alternative design exhibition Come Up To My Room in Toronto last winter.

FLUX was an interactive environment that used smart materials which change colour in response to heat and light, encouraging people to touch and interact with their physical environment. Thomson and Chen wanted FLUX to be a "different world separate from our digital world" where people could be enclosed in an "engaging space."

Jessica Chen and Robyn Thomson creators of the FLUX installation (CBC)

During the event they could see how unaccustomed people were to touching things around them. "People at first were really hesitant to interact with it. We had a sign on it that said 'please do touch' but even after reading it people were really holding back."

With digital technology making the world more "dematerialized", Thomson and Chen think want to change how we think about designing buildings. Thomson sees this as a sort of duty for designers: "I think it's our responsibility as designers to bring the physical realm back into the way we create architecture."

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