The Smart APP-artment by home technology specialists Cornflake
Two factors are changing the way we experience technology in the home: wi-fi networks that extend across space, and the streaming of content including music, video and data. Networks will become as available as oxygen; the iPad will be the interface between the network and every IP-coded address in the home.
Smart APP-artment, at 41 Windmill Street in London, is a house as showroom as experience centre. With an investment of £1.5m, it was developed by home technology specialists Cornflake to show off the latest automated technology in an integrated living environment. Sound, television and cinema technology is connected and amplified by an interaction with the home’s hard services − with lighting, cooling, window blinds, heating, security, data and cooking equipment. Spaces are traditional rooms,but capable of being altered by the entertainment systems.
Timber-panelled sliding doors reveal the living and kitchen space. The room’s layout can be brought up on the iPad, and programmes selected from the range of devices integrated into the room. A television lifts out of an oak storage unit, Tiesto plays from the Las Vegas Electric Daisy Festival, blinds drop, lights alter and the music starts to take over the space. Moving on to the kitchen, the smart oven includes a screen with access to menus. A coffee maker can be pre-programmed with your favourite mix, allowing you to start breakfast before leaving the bedroom.
My host is excited about the ability of the technology, but more so in the scale of choice. Choice here offers an endless combination of events, the individual is filled with a landscape of instantaneous alternatives. Like satellite TV menus, it leads to a constant reflection on the ‘what next?’
The adjoining space is a cross between a bar, games room and digital library. The screen allows computer games to be played by the family at the scale of a room. A large format touch screen is fitted flush into the work counter. Equipped with Windows 8, you can access cooking menus and weekend entertainment options, and parents can engage with online homework while preparing food. The size of the screens extends the possibility of the home as a social space, allowing parents and children to interact. It resists the insular nature of personal computers which limit use to the individual.
In Smart APP-artment, every object is assigned an IP address, connected to a network and controlled via the iPad. Given the level of environmental control, the spatial possibility is openness and fluidity. The use of the space is no longer defined by name, material or language but by the environmental variation of temperature, lighting and acoustic responsiveness. The home becomes entertainment, an extension of the streamed film, and the space of the film is not limited to the screen, acoustically and environmentally it can be replicated in the home to super amplify the nervous system.
A 1970s view of technology focused on saving time; functional efficiency was believed to lead to freedom from work. Archigram’s interest in new electronic appliances meant that we could spend more time enjoying ourselves. Images of the Monte Carlo competition focus on people sunbathing in bikinis while being served by drink-dispensing robots.
In Peter and Alison Smithson’s 1956 House of The Future (exhibited at the Daily Mail Ideal Home show), the space, furniture and products are all connected in a vacuum-formed world of nylon. Tables were moulded in a seamless surface with the floor and walls; clothing consisted of all-in-one jumpsuits with shoes moulded to the legs. A world that spoke of efficiency, speed and a technology that would change society. The technology felt a way off; its distance allowed the imagination to consider a near future that would bring social change for everyone. In this world there was little space for soft furnishings, for comfort, for the home as a vessel for collecting memories.
In Smart APP-artment, the environment is not designed to be a visual extension of the technology. The technology is focused on being integrated, hidden and performance driven. The interiors are a curious mix, part traditional detailing, part contemporary; references derive from yachts and expensive international hotels. These are the interiors of wealthy London homes, reflecting a collection of materials that go beyond the inherent restraint of the architect.
Here technology does not speak of the future, it services the immediate. It is employed to add value beyond location and square footage to London’s super prime houses. It reinforces the private-ness of the home, a world of streamed content that removes the need to go to the cinema, to engage with the city.
The transfer of technology to the privacy of the home and the individual informs the erosion of some public buildings, including the cinema and library. Watching Tron, however, in the £100,000 home cinema is a visual and acoustic experience, my nervous system is blown away (especially as my seat can be linked to a motion activator that mirrors the film’s action sequence). For me cinema is still an urban ritual, where the sound of an audience reacting to a filmic moment is integral to the experience.
While I worry that a £100,000 home cinema is limited to a very elite group, I am reminded that the stamp duty tax receipt for a £5 million residential sale is £350,000. Soon the motion activator seat will be widely available from Amazon; its exclusiveness is temporary, technology is not exclusive for long as it needs mass markets.
While libraries may be declining, I can access iUniversity through iTunes, allowing me to connect to the world’s university courses for free. Michael Sandel’s Harvard course can be accessed in the home or while travelling to work. Through Cornflake’s world of home automation it could even seduce teenagers into learning.