Creators Of The Present: A Q&A With 1024 Architecture

1024 architecture is a studio as prolific as it is talented and presents its projects in a variety of formats—set design, installations, mapping, in situ lightweight architectural structures—and often experiment in the overlapping area between several different formats. Pierre Schneider and François Wunschel’s projects are as much about intervention and action, in the artistic sense of the words, as they are about creating stunning visual experiences. Most of the time this involves getting ahold of a space, an area, or an existing project and appropriating its story in order to restore its poetic dimension, underlining its natural beauty while employing the most advanced technology. Each intervention thus becomes a dialogue between raw space and 1024 architecture’s visual lexicon. We had the opportunity to further discuss augmented dance, the Kinect, the Île Séguin, spaceships and archeological mushrooms with them.

The Creators Project: We recently discovered your performance Make The Line Dance. What is “Augmented Dance,” as you define it? Will we be seeing a foray into the performing arts on the part of 1024 architecture? Is there a desire to work with the movement of the body?
François Wunschel:
Augmented dance, like any enhanced reality, is a process which consists of adding graphic video elements to real-time action. Sort of like video-mapping a dance performance. The particularity—and technical deficiency—of the scale of correspondence between the real elements and the virtual. These two dimensions are combined to create the final “augmented” hybrid. This is not 1024 architecture’s first foray into the performing arts, we’ve been developing the show ‘Euphorie’, which combines space, sound, image and performance for a while. Make The Line Dance is situated in an ongoing continuity, adding the body of a performer as intervention support. It consists of a cross media show, where thanks to the technology that we’ve imagined, every element present can be of influence. The movement of an arm can create a sound, deform an image… The events are linked, like a digital cascade.

Pierre Schneider: Our interests have always lied close to the performing arts. The show stopper of our Extra Terrestrial Station project from 1995’s EME3 festival in Barcelona was a fifteen minute visual, sound and pyrotechnic performance show, a dialog between the constructed installation and the fictional universe that we hold close to our hearts. The moving body here was Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar [building], which we had taking off in a cloud of smoke. Our architectural work is also very much influenced by this relationship with the performing arts. We’ve always tried to give our constructions life, enhanced by an illuminating breath, vibrations and cardiac pulsations, like Venice’s 2006 Metavilla for example.

Why choose a Kinect? As a recently released accessory that has become regularly used in artistic work, what’s your view on this trend?
François Wunschel:
The appropriation of objects that are a part of popular technology are of core interest to us. In our shows, for example, we transform neon tubes into luminous guitars. It made sense to make use of the Kinect, the first 3D relatively affordable camera to be mass produced. Because of it’s relevance in video game culture, the majority of our installations and shows were controlled by a console controller. Twenty years ago, the more dominant analogy would have been music. Software then was controlled by a Midi interface, a visual piano for example. We’re now more inclined as gamers than pianists, [and] the tools that have been developed for gaming feel natural to us. The Kinect’s [current] “boom” is linked to three essential factors: its affordability (it’s mass produced), its advanced technological level (two cameras and an infrared projector), and easy compatibility (it has a USB plug). When these three factors are combined, its relevance to the art world becomes immediate and its possibilities for use multiply.

Can you tell us about your upcoming project on the Île Séguin? It’s a very particular place in the Parisian landscape. A sort of wasteland that’s become almost mythical (coveted and controversial) in the heart of the city. How have you been interpreting and thinking of appropriating the space?
Pierre Schneider:
The Île Séguin is effectively an entirely unsolicited territory in the Grand Paris landscape, at once the desert isle that it is today and also a space coveted by promoters and investors. Our project is a bar-restaurant-outdoor café in the middle of an ephemeral garden in center of the island, a project that we imagine will have a lifespan of about three or four years. A meeting place primed for the reoccupation of the space by the coming of Jean Nouvel’s multi-scale project. It consists of a first floor restaurant that will open onto two terraces supported by stilts, giving way to an open and free space on the ground floor, perfect for early evening drinks… Most of the project will be carried out using building site and ephemeral materials (scaffolding, containers, concrete panels… as we often do in our projects) as a way of introducing and pre-empting the building site to come. Our construction will obviously be enhanced with lighting and equipment that will enable the building to be receptive to future sound performances. We plan to unveil it this coming summer 2011. You can follow the project’s evolution on our website.

1024 architecture has a hold on lightweight architecture and in situ installations. How would you define the ephemeral character of these projects? Is this a dimension that is of particular interest to you?
François Wunschel:
We are creators of the present. Ephemeral projects are relatively fast to develop. They have immediacy to them, moving with the times.

How do you deal with the programmed end of these projects?
Pierre Schneider:
I think of life as only possible through death: the reason that we feel so great and excited to be alive is because we know that one day we will die! The same is true of our work. The fact that most of our projects have a limited lifespan gives them an immediate human and living aspect. This is what’s exciting!

What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to in 2011?
François Wunschel:
2011 will be a year of technical and artistic challenges for 1024. Without giving too much away, we’ve been developing a video-mapping program called MadMapper that will allow us to share our experiences in this area with others. It will enable everyone to get involved with mapping thanks to a logical and simple interface.

Pierre Schneider: We’ve also been working on an archeological-mushroom project in St-Denis, a protective cover for an archeological building 50m away from the Basilica. A hybrid of the mushroom from Tintin’s The Shooting Star and the one from the Mario Bros games, the idea is to create dialog between the different generations of building and of reference, it’s growing as I speak…

Photos courtesy of: 1024 architecture / François WUNSCHEL and Pierre SCHNEIDER, 2011