Tokyo is one big city, with big constructions ongoing for the 2020 Summer Olympics. At these construction sites, one can often see green distinguished construction vehicles, created by Kobelco Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. (“Kobelco”)
On the other hand: Inami/Hiyama research department/laboratory, which focus its research on the human sense and perception. The famous comic and animated series Ghost in the Shell, which centers around Tokyo of 2029, depicts their research field in human augmentation technology,
Both Kobelco and Inami/Hiyama laboratory will be joining forces to conduct research study at the University of Tokyo. Domino Architects was in charge of the design of this research lab.
The research theme of this lab is “Controlling of construction machinery through VR,” and from this research lab it will remote-control the construction machines located 800 km away, within an automobile demolition/dismantling factory in Kure City, Hiroshima. Although it is fairly common to make one part of the lab as a VR space, this assignment was different in that it needed to make the entire room serve as the cockpit for the dismantling machines. The room also needed to fulfil all the needs required as a research lab.
Since this one lab room needed to incorporate different functions including a VR room, a meeting room, a workspace/workshop, and a show room, we decided not to partition the lab room by placing any walls – instead, we decided to place large pillar-like furniture so that blind areas and wraparound would serve to create each functional corners.
A space for VR: in a space that, to speak of extremes, a minimal white cube can satisfy its needs, what can a real interface space that connects “virtual” and “reality” supplement? This project attempts to link between Tokyo and Hiroshima the various elements such as airflow, odor or material textures – those that are difficult to connect remotely.
To increase the presence and elation, an actual seat from a dismantling machine has been renovated with a new seat leather and placed in the room. The pedestals are colored with the iconic Kobelco green automotive paints. The entire lab is designed as an interior part of a giant Kobelco construction machine.
The pillar-like furniture that loosely separates the room is made of special plate materials consisting of grinded and compressed Japanese magnolia tree. The sight of compressed wood standing solidly within the space is an overlapping image of the scrapped iron and steel blocks being piled up within the car demolition factory in Hiroshima.
All other furniture are intended as a background of the space: the electric facility racks pre-existing on the ceiling helped to diverge and create bookshelves and monitor stands. We made sure no new element was created from these furniture.
In today’s world where remote meetings, electronic commerce, or communications over virtual space are becoming increasingly popular, the arise of a counter-movement to seek for physicality is intriguing. Meanwhile, the role played by a real space, as well as the occupational ability to design such real space, is not insignificant.