With everyone tethered to technology, sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we live in a multisensory world.
Google will be doing just that at next month’s Salone del Mobile in Milan with “A Space for Being,” a three-room installation that will be a feast for the senses. Equipped with different art, textiles, sound, color, lighting and scents — each room will be different from the next so that visitors will feel and learn how neuroaesthetics may affect their biology and well-being. Instead of a headset, attendees will be given a wristband designed to measure specific physical and physiological responses.
At the end, visitors will receive a customized report, highlighting in which space they felt “most comfortable” or “at ease” based on their real-time physiological responses. Visitors will also see their experiential-monitored data deleted afterward.
On view April 9 to 14, the Spazio Maiocchi attraction is being co-created by Google’s vice president for hardware design Ivy Ross, in collaboration with Muuto’s design director Christian Grosen; Reddymade architecture and design studio founder Suchi Reddy, and Johns Hopkins University International Arts and Mind Lab’s executive director Susan Magsamen.
Ross said, “The idea is to show people that everything matters — the things that we surround ourselves with affect our biology. These are things that designers have known intuitively. Now with neuroscience and science we can actually show the fact that these things do affect us — the art you choose, the texture, the music — everything you surround yourself with has an effect.”
As for whether “A Space for Being” is meant to be a response to the digital world, she said, “I don’t believe it’s either or. It’s both. In these rooms, we have a small [Google] Home Hub that is rotating beautiful images and a Google Home speaker playing music. These two small pieces of technology are very much a part of the room. They are bringing sensory experiences. What it is showing me in part, but that is not the main idea, is that we can live with these things. It’s about how we live with them, how we use them and what we surround ourselves with. I do think we’re craving these sensory experiences as a society to feel alive.”
In terms of whether the Milan experience is meant to humanize Google, Ross disagreed and referenced the design language that she and her team follow. “We have three words that guide us — human, optimistic and bold. Those guiding principles are used to design all the products…I wouldn’t say we’re doing this to make Google more human. I’d say we’ve used that word to inform the design team in terms of the way that we use shape, texture and color so I always want us to show up human. I believe technology can amplify our humanity. It’s what we do with it that matters.” she said.
“A Space for Being” will feature a commissioned piece by the artist Claudy Jongstra, whose locally sourced creations stem from a farmhouse and a studio with an artists-in-residence program in two tiny villages north of Amsterdam. Her wool tapestry is designed to look very soft so that exhibition visitors will experience softness purely by looking at it but without having touched it. “It’s very interesting how the brain works,” Jongstra said.
The piece also has historical reference to recipes, science-heavy manuals and manuscripts from the 15th and 16th centuries. Too complicated to read, the recipes were interpreted by scientists at universities in Utrecht, Amsterdam and Antwerp, as well as some at the Museum Hof van Busleyden in Belgium, in order for people to incorporate them into their lives. As of June 21, the information will be accessible to people at the museum. Part of the idea is how people transfer knowledge from one generation to the next. “A lot of the knowledge was lost. Transferring knowledge was very precise. They define time in a very typical way,” she said, adding that measuring time for recipes may have called for certain prayers to be read a specific number of times.
Having worked with Hermès and Maison Margiela, Jongstra has a new project with a European haute couture brand that will debut in July. She declined to elaborate, only saying it is not a French one. Regarding her Milan project, Jongstra hopes that people will be inspired and surprised by her palette of textures and colors that they are not familiar with. The aim is to make them curious enough to ask questions and reconnect the world to its legacy and heritage. “Global trade in the 15th and 16th centuries connected mankind globally. That would be fantastic, if we would recognize these qualities and bring them back again,” she said.