For SXSW 2020, we created an intimate space around the aesthetic of Aurora Borealis, complete with touch interactivity, lighting, and sound design. We envisioned this theme in an unconventional way, abstracting a crystalline forest infinitely expanding in all directions.

While typical 3D printing is used for small scale prototypes, we printed at architectural scale. The canopy design is created by an algorithmic modeling process, producing a hollow cellular network that was printed by a 6-axis robotic arm. The vertical “tree trunks” were printed in house on our printer farm, diffusing the light beautifully due to an innovative rippled extrusion technique developed in prototyping. Even the interactive touch pads were printed with conductive PLA.

The Aurora exhibits a 3-part, audio-visual narrative, from 1) an ominous, bioluminescent midnight rustling with creature voices and meditative tones, to 2) an uplifting magenta dawn carried by harps and bird song, climaxing with 3) an undulating red orange sunset growing stronger until it is absorbed by the night and the narrative repeats itself. These moods are the times of day the Aurora is visible.

Closely collaborating with our office mates and friends at Enjoyable Engineering, we implemented addressable LEDs, light fixtures, and capacitive touch interactivity into the design, complementary to the narrative and user experience. Uniting TouchDesigner and Ableton in real-time allowed us to harmonize interactivity, sound, and visuals into a seamless user experience.