With increasing urbanisation and the constant assault on our senses from work emails, Skype calls, WhatsApp groups, Facebook posts, Instagram, Twitter etc, Otherworld offers a virtual reality journey that, in our increasingly crowded environment, provides a brief respite from this noise.
I went along to the creators of Otherworld to find out how they were inspired to create the 265m² space in a converted East London railway arch, and what was involved along the way, interviewing Lucas Che Tizard, one of the founding directors behind this herd of architects and designers. The design practice Red Deer attempts to better engage with the world around them; and seeks to demystify the process of working with an architect.
Lucas Che Tizard is an architect with a real passion for lighting, who wrote his thesis on the architecture of light, specifically looking at case studies of Dan Flavin and James Turrell, as such their influences can be seen clearly in this space.
“Light is incredibly important both from a wellbeing perspective but also in a more scientific way. Light is how we experience everything around us, particularly in architecture. First and foremost it’s about light, and light bouncing off your surroundings” Lucas says.
Red Deer approached the main space as it were a gallery. As Lucas explained “The idea of the lighting in Otherworld is to start to break down, in a very subtle way your perception of reality. We did that by creating lots of curves in the space; shaded lighting, curved tables. One design reference of import was the Dan Flavin corridors, the way he used fluorescents. We wanted to create an immersive space suited to a wider demographic, than those normally associated with the stereotypical carpeted games arcade from the 1980s. By keeping the space minimal it made the lighting and soft hue fade the focal point of the project, giving the feeling of a futuristic environment.”
As you enter the room your eye is drawn to the bar at the end of the space, with the notional corridor leading to the bar, lined on each side by a line of white ‘cylinders’ sitting upon raised platforms. These are the 14 Virtual Reality (VR) immersions rooms. The custom-built booths are the only ones in the world which dynamically integrate extra-sensory effects into the VR experience. Heat, wind, rumble and scent respond dynamically to the users experience to stimulate all the senses. To me the whole aesthetic experience feels not dissimilar to the spaceship deck in the classic Kubrick film 2001 Space Odyssey.
Lucas is a real advocate of creating strength in simplicity, to avoid overcomplicating things. One thing that stands out for me is how Red Deer created the space without making it kitsch, which could be a danger in such an arena. Lucas explained, “It is a fine line, we worked with lighting designer, Lucas Edwards from VoodooVision and initially were just planning on using fluorescents, but the guys wanted to add a level of control to animate the space, which meant LED’s were the obvious option. From the outset we said no LEDs should be visible unless they are intentional, as is shown on the bar. You can have a great designed space but the second you see the LED lights on the strip, or where strips have fallen, it suddenly devalues everything.”
Lucas from VoodooVision collaborated on the brief, and a lot of time was spent working on colour combinations: “it’s a work under continual development to mark events, special occasions, but ultimately the aim is to constantly have an environment that better engages with the customer.”
The client for this project was the Dream Corporation, founded in 2017 by one of the 20th century’s most pioneering figures, Dr. Horatio Sands. After making his fortune as a visionary engineer at the vanguard of the Information Revolution, he set out to redirect technology back at the problems it had itself created. Entec supplied 23 of their 130W Pixel Ports and a few hundred metres of their LED tape, the LEDs were individually addressable controlled and mapped centrally via Madrix software.
And here’s a TedX talk on Digital Nomadism, by Red Deer from 2016: