September 2017 saw the inaugural Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology (EDIT) take place in Toronto. The 10-day event was held at the old Lever Brothers soap factory and showcased innovations in healthcare, housing, education and food.
One of the highlights of the event was the 13-feet-tall, 625-square-feet Wild Abode installation. Commissioned by developer Great Gulf, Wild Abode featured the public launch of Lightframe, a flexible, programmable lighting structure created by STACKLAB and Boston-based architect Jonathan Enns in 2015. With Lightframe at its heart, Wild Abode conveyed how Great Gulf is a pioneer in environmentally friendly wood-construction systems.
The complex and unique nature of the project garnered significant attention at the event, and has continued to do so in the months that followed. In July 2018, Wild Abode was named as a finalist at the SBID International Design Excellence Award in the Public Spaces category.
“We’re thrilled to receive this nomination,” said STACKLAB Founder and Creative Director Jeffrey Forrest. “The quality of the experience and the strength of the message ultimately tie back to conscientious multidisciplinary design and collaboration. This is the brainchild of a team of developers, designers and skilled manufacturers who want to contribute to innovation in our built environment.”
The origins of Wild Abode can be traced back to 2015, when Great Gulf approached STACKLAB to create a lighting system for trade shows and events. The result was Lightframe, as Jeffrey explained:
“Lightframe is a modular, structural lighting system. Our design ‘hacks’ an existing, German-made aluminium extrusion. We picked this system for two reasons: 1) The profiles have hollow cavities that can support electronics, and 2) because it is a pre-engineered system with a written spec. With this information in hand, we were able to make strategic profile alterations.
“We analysed our structural modifications– that is cutting into the existing Item profiles, inserting complex wiring runs, and adding small, custom structural braces– in real-time to ensure the assembly was optimized for performance. There are four standard modules in this iteration. Each of them is individually addressable and they all talk to each other back at a centralised brain or CPU.”
In 2017, Great Gulf’s creative agency, Community, and STACKLAB collaborated to create Wild Abode. Wild Abode utilised Lightframe to present an abstracted image of a house being gradually overgrown by a nascent pine forest. At the centre, salvaged twigs were zip-tied together and wrapped around an existing structural column serving as the figurative tree trunk. Arrayed around it, at varying heights, were metaphoric leaves—the seedlings and soil in test tubes—hanging from a black-painted, CNC-milled poplar-plywood lattice trellis bolted to the existing concrete ceiling.
A crew of approximately 35 designers, engineers and artisans installed 65 LED segments, 35 nodes and 4,870 pine seedlings over six days.
Utilising Lightframe’s programmable multicolour LEDs, Wild Abode created an immersive, multisensory experience, with slowly undulating waves of light from the LEDs timed to simulate a body’s breathing and heartbeat.
The scale of the Lightframe module’s 8 by 8-foot bay relates comfortably to the human body. The dimensions permit easy, IKEA-style flat-pack shipping, and hauling inside a standard elevator. All the Wild Abode exhibit components fit inside an 18-wheeler truck.
STACKLAB was founded by designer Jeffrey Forrest in 2013. The award-winning, Toronto-based multidisciplinary art-and-design studio experiments extensively with materials and fabrication techniques while pursuing a critical approach to form.
For more information, please visit us at www.stacklab.ca.