Bit by Bit
Winka Dubbeldam of Archi-Tectonics programs a Chelsea gallery, Bitforms, for digital art
Linas Alsenas -- Interior Design, 9/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
After seeing the 2001 "BitStreams" exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Steve Sacks, then in Internet marketing, was interested enough to learn more. When three months of research turned up not a single dedicated commercial outlet for digital art in New York, his interest turned to fascination. Making a play for the nascent market in digitally oriented art—which refers to a range of work from interactive software and data visualizations to reactive sculpture and mixed media—Sacks resolved to transform 1,650 square feet in Chelsea into the gallery Bitforms.
Archi-Tectonics founding principal Winka Dubbeldam, who always designs digitally, grasped the Bitforms idea right away. "The important thing about the digital concept is that everything is smaller and more precise. The smallest module has the highest level of intelligence," she says. In keeping with this theory, her design for Bitforms is compact but effective. To define an exhibition space and a reception area with an adjacent office, the architect's team divided the space via the strategic placement of a modular "smart box," which itself acts as a private client-meeting room. The box structure is sheathed in anodized aluminum with the exception, on one end, of a semitranslucent acrylic window that doubles as a projection screen. The interior is paneled in an acoustic beech-wood product. "The paneling is modular and extremely easy to mount," raves Dubbeldam. "For a calm and meditative room with an air of luxury, sound is very important." The smart box also serves as an up-light, creating ambient illumination for the rest of the gallery.
The most important feature of the smart box, both owner-director Sacks and architect Dubbeldam are quick to point out, is a sandblasted-steel arm that swings in and out. Patrons can use the arm's pair of touch screens to peruse the gallery's digital archive, which includes information on past, present, and future exhibitions. The high-tech component will even print out a customized catalog.