The Secret Room

As part of Joue le Jeu at La Gaite Lyrique, a newly restored Parisian Museum with a digital focus, Hide and Seek tasked us with designing the building’s heart. This was the place where selected successful players of The Building Is… games would be summoned to change the emotion of the building. The space was to appear to be beyond the limits of the regular exhibition.

Development

Our early exploration focused on how a building would evolve to feel, and what it would look like. The image below was our most referenced aesthetic. We didn’t want the building’s heart to feel like a control room but rather that the materials of the building had become conscious.

We aimed to make manipulating the heart of the building ambiguous, there were rules as to how your actions would change its feelings, but they should not be explicit. We also wanted it to be challenging and require a leap into the unknown. A much used reference was the tree stump scene below from Flash Gordon.

We used story boards to map the journey from player selection and walking down the gradually dimming corridor, to the room containing the building’s heart.

Build

This video shows the moment we first took control of the lights and sound in the corridor leading up to the secret room, using Processing and DMX. Assistants could then manage the rising tension as someone approached the secret room and the building’s heart.

The circuit board measured wire pulls and was built with tolerance controls and LEDs. It gave an analogue value to the Arduino and could affect sound intensity and light brightness.

The overall technical process of the secret room and the building’s heart is detailed below, from acknowledging a player had entered the room, through to recording their actions and sending out to the central server to change the mood of the building.

Installation

Players walked the length of the corridor with a pass allowing access to the backstage area. Whilst walking to the secret room it became darker and the sound became louder. In the secret room, players were faced by a tangle of wires and light, squeezed out from the ceiling, the building’s heart. The heart responded by illuminating the holes through which players should put their hands. Inside were wires and a latex coated core covered with buttons. Pulling wires and pressing buttons would increase volume and brightness and change the colour and sound in the room. Once the intensity hit maximum, the mood would be set through out the building and the heart would become unresponsive and angry.

Below is the booth that evaluated the players performance throughout the Building is… game and then decided what type of player they were. The player would then wait to see if the building required a player of their skill set to change its mood.

The heart in the secret room. When waiting to have its mood changed the heart played a low level of ambient noise and maintained its previous emotional state, shown by colour and sound.

The final film showing the process from walking the corridor, through to manipulating the buildings heart and changing the mood through out the building.

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