Thursday, 3:30am
6 September 2012

Pause to play

Marcus Leis Allion hails Song Board – an interactive installation for King’s Cross commuters

This summer, as passengers rush through the new entrance to London’s King’s Cross Station to check the departure boards, they can pause to play with an interactive wall of coloured balls, writes Marcus Leis Allison.

Some have come specially to see Song Board, a 2m high by 35m wide interactive installation designed and constructed by a team of students and staff from nearby Central Saint Martins with assistance from William Hardie Design.

Screen shot 2012-09-04 at 11.49.34

Song Board itself is made of 2940 plastic spheres aligned to a simple 210 × 14 grid. Each sphere rotates on a vertical axis in response to the user, revealing itself to be black on one side (to match the wall) and a bright warm yellow on the other. The stark contrast is further amplified as each ball gently slots into four possible positions: black, black / yellow, yellow and yellow / black.

Song Board

This feature makes it possible to generate a vast array of lines, shapes, patterns, symbols, drawings designs and lettering across the length of the wall. Furthermore, the balls have been wired up to microswitches: one small movement may cause a connection to close, producing a brief fragment of sound.

Song Board, King’s Cross, 2012.

school kids

When I visited, a number of people were busy drawing shapes, writing messages and creating musical snippets by running their hands over the spheres. Others were happy to observe. These interactions were quick and often resulted in simple, light-hearted messages.

Song Board’s open-access nature and large scale makes producing a complex piece a challenge, but the installation has attracted individuals and groups who have gone there with designs already prepared.

An online variant of Song Board makes such approaches possible, as it replicates the visual features of the installation.

Detail of Song Board, King’s Cross, 2012.

Song Board detail

Song Board will be at King’s Cross until Sun 9 September before departing for the D&AD Awards (18 September 2012).

The project is part of the ‘WONDER: Incredible Installations’ series set up to promote London and reflect the participatory and collaborative qualities associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. (Other examples include Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege, an inflatable life-size replica of Stonehenge, and AY Architects’ House of Flags on Parliament Square – 206 interconnecting panels representing the flags of the participating countries.)

Credits: A collaborative project from MA Creative Practice for Narrative Environments and BA (Honours) Architecture: Spaces and Objects at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. Students: Mahsa Damigah , Alexander Goller, Katie Russell, Yuri Zampirolli Tutors: Patricia Austin, Oscar Brito, Matt Haycocks, Jona Piehl, Gregory Ross

Production: William Hardie Design; Chloe Meineck; Johannes Wolf: Setup and Programming; Hamish Boden.

Graduates and students of Brighton Design and Craft also assisted in production.

Song Board 2

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