A testament to innovation and entrepreneurship, Optrix, an emerging technology conceived of by Abhinand Lath and first reported on in A|L's June 2004 issue (page 51), has been renamed SensiTile, now that it is available commercially. It has also been selected by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) for the firm's award-winning entry, received this September, for the Boulevard der Stars competition in Berlin. The brief called for the creation of a series of plaques to honor German film stars, similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. ZHA was one of four firms invited to submit proposals, and ZHA in turn selected SensiTile to develop and fabricate the interactive tiles that make up each plaque. ZHA's scheme proposes 12 SensiTile Terrazzo oval tile-plaques to be installed in front of the Berlin Film Museum, and six additional tile-plaques to be added annually. Tiles will be clustered in groups for directors and actors. The end result will be the 'transformation of the pavement and the creation of a living surface for pedestrian traffic.'
Utilizing active and passive fiber-optic components organized in an exponential spiral, the tile-plaques will respond passively under daylight or streetlight conditions, while at night, electric light conditions will actively trigger the fiber-optic elements. The overall effect will be hundreds of 'points of light emerging from the concrete and dematerializing its mass with a radiance that shimmers and moves in reposes to the presence of people.'
According to ZHA's press release, the firm looked at a palette of materials including transparent concrete (which could be lit from below), stainless-steel castings, and glass beads. The designers wanted 'materials that perforate the existing opacity of the floor and make it appear as though it 'floats.' A new development by SensiTile, incorporating terrazzo, passive and active light conducting tubes (fiber optics), excited our imagination as it draws interactive qualities by the simple means of natural or artificial ambient light, without the need for electricity. Ruled by simple low-tech principal, this new material, we found, could provide joy and play on the street.' ZHA is awaiting confirmation from the Berlin Film Museum for a project start date in 2005. a|l