They have been hailed as “the poster boys of a new breed of digital designers” by the International Herald Tribune; their works have been embraced by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris and Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rheim– Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram are, without question, one of the most sought-after designer duos in the international scene. Their most recent stroke of genius can be marveled at in Hanover from March 10 to 14: a spectacular example of trade fair architecture, developed specifically for CODE_n at CeBIT. This is their awe-inspiring and uniquely characteristic answer to a simple question: How big is Big Data? We spoke to Clemens Weisshaar about their concept for Hall 16.
Felix Jansen (FJ): Hi Clemens. There are a good 30 days to go until the next CeBIT trade show in Hanover. It’s not normally the sort of event you’d put into your planner. But this time, you and your design partner Reed Kram are responsible for what’s probably the most exciting hall design at the entire trade show. What should visitors to Hall 16 brace themselves for?
Clemens Weisshaar (CW): Definitely a radical departure from classic trade fair construction– instead of lining up a series of cubicles, we’ve occupied every dimension of the hall. This is an architecture that sculpts the full volume of Hall 16. A 2,900 square meter multi-terapixel panorama helps re-imagine the hall as a forum for the exchange of ideas. This is the anathema of monotony.
FJ: The floor area of the hall measures 5,000 square meters, and it’s framed on each side by these gigantic visualizations. They’re nearly 12 meters high and 250 meters long. That sounds pretty big …
CW: Yes! Broaching ‘bigness’ is exactly what this is about. A decade ago, visualizing data was rather limited and about as adventurous as a pie chart. Now, we have enough storage capacity and computational power to cull and combine massive volumes of data– from Google Lab’s annals of digitized books to the morphological paths of the human mind. Since CODE_n has chosen the Data Revolution as its core theme for 2014, we set out to make visible giant amounts of data in extremely high definition– not as a digital medium but as an architecturally-scaled, tangible set of ideas.
FJ: And to add to this, there are the 50 ambitious up-and-coming companies that made it into the final selection of the CODE_n contest. What part do they play in your planning?
CW: The start-ups played an absolutely pivotal role in our planning. We took to task using the architecture to create a 5,000 square meter space of ideas and exchange– a fundamental aspect of CODE_n. The most important endeavor for company founders is to sell their business concepts which is only possible with barrier-free communication. The panoramic umbrella both envelopes and frees the exhibition space, allowing the liberal exchange of information.
FJ: CODE_n is about young entrepreneurs and their relaxed approach to the very concept of innovation. It’s about new realms in the digital era of tomorrow, dialogue, inspiration, creativity and flexible collaboration. Can you identify with all this?
CW: Absolutely, in a number of ways. Before attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Reed [Kram] was an active part of the Silicon Valley start-up environment. So this very forward-looking, collaborative philosophy is really a tenant of our office culture. Our approach and organization is a hybrid between technology think-tank and a classic design office. In addition to writing software, we also develop computer hardware and physical, designed products. Our work consistently unites these aspects, so we feel very much at home in this environment. Find more information in the related press release: CODE_n takes trade show design to new levels at CeBIT