An Island in the 25th time-zone.
Based in Palermo for the past 50 years, the French Cultural
Center of Palermo and Sicily is being restructured and
Thierry Roche, Director of the Center, has asked Electronic
Shadow to be part of redesigning this new space. The context
is a perfect opportunity for Naziha Mestaoui and Yacine
Aït Kaci, founders of Electronic Shadow, to put the
concepts of hybrid architecture to work and create a physical
space that acts as an interface with its digital extension.
Their contribution fuses the real and the virtual into
one timespace of discovery and exchange.
information and communication technologies, along with
the Internet, have expanded on various flows known to
the physical world to define an expanded electronic
continuum. Internet thus constitutes a global layer,
capable of extending almost all human activities into
the electronic world in a new timespace. Geography is
eliminated in favor of a constant flow, in which all
information tends towards the ubiquitous and immediate,
constituting a new timespace the 25th time zone.
25th time zone is one of the overall projects
central concepts and carries with it great symbolism
with regards to the goals of a cultural center. The
25th time zone is an imaginary strip brings together
all other time zones into one timespace. It is the time
zone of the Internet, simultaneously all hours of the
day and every place in the world at once. It is a locus
of encounters and exchange.
the context of the French Cultural Center project, this
idea is a core concept that can consistently be traced
in the Centers architecture, visual identity and
design, as well as on the future website.
space will thus be clearly geared to the rest of the
world: not only the Mediterranean basin but also the
rest of the world via the Internet, not only the website
but also other places with which the Center is currently
and will be in contact. Upon entering the Center, beyond
Palermo and of Sicily, visitors will enter the network.
Between Two Worlds
other types of flow, information moves from point to
point and travels between spaces, giving rhythm to our
paths through the physical world: cities, villages and
buildings have their own parallels in the virtual spaces
of the electronic world. Such are the foundations of
websites. A website is an interactive layout of data
stored on a hard disk, which is in turn connected to
the network and thus constantly accessible anytime,
thus see the world and its image, its electronic reflection,
cohabiting in different timespaces. The crossing points
from one world to another are defined by interfaces
the systems which translate actions into data
and, inversely, make it possible to make flows and information
visible. The most familiar interfaces are computers,
with their combination of screens for visualization
and peripherals for collecting and replaying information.
the interface that we control most naturally and thus
best is our body. Its peripherals include language,
emotion and gesture, which dont have any direct
digital translation, creating distance and a clear separation
between the two worlds, despite their similarities and
correspondences. The representation of the body in the
electronic world an avatar would be a
kind of remote-controlled puppet that would extend physical
presence into an electronic world.
these observations comes a proposal for a hybrid vision
for creation in general, and architecture in particular,
to establish a common space between the two worlds,
to be shared by our physical body and by our electronic
body, or avatar. The space is considered part of a more
significant entity, with its extension in the physical
world as well as in the digital world. Thus the actions
in one world are reflected in another, creating a persistent,
ubiquitous existence by allowing new types of spatial
configurations, perceptions and exchanges. One can consequently
imagine sharing a physical place, between a real audience
using its body as an interface, and the avatars which
created an extended audience presence, as real
as the other only distant through a series of digital
field of hybrid architecture thus goes from the design
of real spaces to that of virtual spaces. The design
and creation of these spaces are made on common premises,
with a common goal of integrating the communication
interfaces of the two worlds. From a formal and structural
point of view, the information architecture is also
integrated to allow access via a website as well as
the physical infrastructures displayed in a real installation
the context of the Palermo Cultural Center, these concepts
are linked to local realities and the historical heritage
of the site, which is located near the Arab-Norman palace
of La Zisa.
architecture thus mixes modern techniques and materials,
such as Corian produced by the Dupont DeNemours, one
of the project partners, with other materials specially
made by local craftsmen using traditional techniques.
Physical / Digital Relationship
physical and digital spaces have a common structure,
divided into 25 strips to reflect 25 time zones. In
the physical space, this grid folds up to define spaces,
furniture and design elements. In the digital world,
the grid folds up to create different information architectures.
physical space and its digital extension will house
2 types of audiences visitors and avatars.
avatars interaction in the digital space influences
what is happening in the physical space, changing intensity
of the light, color or audio ambiances. Inversely, the
digital extension on the website will be modified by
the activity taking place in the physical space of the
link between the real space and the website is thus
encapsulated by their shared interactivity.
new French Cultural Center of Palermo and Sicily will
be one of the first places imagined and created with
these ideas of hybrid architecture in mind. It is an
opportunity to develop avant-garde concepts in the Mediterranean
and, thus, to keep up with the cultural and economic
challenges of the new millennium.
in 2000, Electronic Shadows work is based on various
areas of creation, from architecture to new technologies,
as well as design, graphic design and video. These fields
come together to articulate the relationship between
the physical world and new electronic territories. With
several years of experience in these fields, Naziha
MESTAOUI, Belgian architect (I-tube projects, lightscapes,
liquid axis) and Yacine AIT KACI, French multi-media
director (CD-Rom Yves the St. Laurent, DVD-Rom of the
Louvre, television production) combine their expertise
to create a new field hybrid design. All of Electronic
Shadows projects enrich this research by creating
real applications: interactive installations, like I-skin
or V-med; innovative objects like the écharpe
communicante presented at the Moma in February,
2001; and architecture with the French Cultural Centre
of Palermo and Sicily.