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The Making of the Principals’ Dynamic Sanctuary for Ford

PHOTOS BY PIPPA DRUMMOND

Sight Unseen OFFSITE opens today, and front and center at this year’s show is an undulating structure that, from a distance, looks incredibly mysterious — its walls are made from an unusual material, and they periodically emit a strange, pulsing blue glow. As you approach the structure, you first pass through a very narrow entryway that obscures your view of what’s inside, but once you arrive there — well, that’s the magic of the Dynamic Sanctuary, an installation by the Brooklyn design studio The Principals that’s a kind of poetic metaphor for the design ideas behind Ford’s 2015 Edge vehicle.

Earlier this week we introduced you to the concept of the New Escapism, which explores how design can help provide moments of calm and stress-relief within the context of our hectic everyday lives — even while we’re driving home from a crazy day at work, provided our car interiors are expansive, soothing, and have a dynamic feeling of flow, like the Edge. The Principals took those same notions and applied them to an architectural light chamber that uses space, materials, and responsive technology to evoke feelings of peacefulness amidst the crazy schedule of New York design week. We sent Sight Unseen photographer Pippa Drummond to the trio’s studio in Greenpoint to get a glimpse into exactly how they did it, unraveling the mystery of the Dynamic Sanctuary piece by piece.

If you can’t visit the Dynamic Sanctuary in person today through Monday at Hudson Mercantile, 500 W. 36th St., you can learn even more about the project by joining the Ford Motor Company live on Periscope (@ford) at 1:30 PM ET today for a walkthrough of the installation and a Q&A with Drew Seskunas of The Principals.
06_SU_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_Making_004xDrew Seskunas of The Principals assembling the basic components of the Dynamic Sanctuary — a mirrored Plexiglas floor mounted with 29 custom-cut triangles that hold, in total, more than 100 high-powered LEDs.03_SU_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_Elements_033xAn individual LED triangle. 10_SU_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_MakingStudio_009xMounted to the mirrored floor are modular elements made from corrugated plastic that The Principals call an “inverted triangle diaphragm” — a unique structural system they designed in which each cell starts as flat die-cut sheets but have a special contoured shape when assembled that makes them much stronger and more stable than the material would normally allow.11_SU_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_Elements_059xEach column of cells is lit by one of the 29 LED triangles hiding at its base.12_SU_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_MakingInside_015xThe LEDs are all hooked up to 8 LED drivers that are also mounted inside the columns that control the dimming of the lights.13_SU_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_Elements_054xThe dimming is controlled, in turn, by signals from an arduino The Principals have programmed to read the pulses of visitors to the Dynamic Sanctuary, measured by a green pulse sensor that’s normally used in hospital diagnostics.
SU_ThePrincipals_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_Inside_006cpInside the first Dynamic Sanctuary prototype. The LED lights have a temperature of 6000K — much cooler than a typical 2500K kitchen LED — that results in the installation’s blue color. In studies, blue has been shown to be the most soothing, calming color in the spectrum.15_SU_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_MakingInside_035xSeskunas testing the finger sensor inside the Sanctuary. The lights in the installation fade in and out to match the beat of a wearer’s pulse, making them aware of their biorhythms and helping them guide themselves into a calmer state.SU_ThePrincipals_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_Making_033The nearly-finished prototype in The Principals’ studio.
09_ThePrincipals_DynamicSanctuary_Complete_397A view of the outside of the Dynamic Sanctuary, installed at Sight Unseen OFFSITE. Its narrow entrance, which obscures visitors’ view of the interior of the space until they get inside it, was meant to give them a feeling of compression and then expansion, evoking a sense of wonder and release. It was inspired by slot canyons, the sculptures of Richard Serra, and the interior of the Ford Edge, which was designed to feel even more open and spacious than it actually is.

Visit the Dynamic Sanctuary now through Monday at 500 W. 36th St., and be sure to watch the video below that explains the concept behind the installation!