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'Shaped by Water': Lachlan Turczan and Google Design Studio's sensorial installation

Creating a novel experience through the interplay of water, light, and sound at Milan Design Week 2023, the collaboration explored our connection with water.

by Daria KravchukPublished on : Apr 25, 2023

In the framework of Milan Design Week, Google Design Studio in collaboration with the water, light, and sound artist Lachlan Turczan explored our connection with water; with water becoming a source of artistic and design inspiration for the three-chapter-based installation Shaped by Water. Google presented Shaped by Water for Salone del Mobile Milano following its debut exhibition Softwear in 2018 and its second exhibition A Space For Being in 2019.

Sympathetic Resonance, 2023, water, stainless steel, speakers, cameras, custom software , Lachlan Turczan|Shaped by Water | Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan| STIRworld
Sympathetic Resonance, 2023, water, stainless steel, speakers, cameras, custom software, Lachlan Turczan Image: Courtesy of Google
Lachlan Turczan and Ivy Ross next to Sympathetic Resonance by Lachlan Turczan, 2023, Photograph | Shaped by Water | Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan | STIRworld
Lachlan Turczan and Ivy Ross next to Sympathetic Resonance by Lachlan Turczan, 2023, Photograph Image: Courtesy of Google

In the industrial space of Garage 21 in the centre of Milan, Italy, Shaped by Water offered an immersive, sensorial experience, exploring our connection to water as humans and as a source of inspiration for design. Through the installation, Google strived to reflect on how one of the most powerful compounds in the natural world—water—can serve as the muse for Google’s latest hardware design. As Turczan comments, "Water is a remarkable substance with memory. It takes time to move it and to shape it. But once you do, there is this afterimage or moment in time where it remembers the imprint and energy that was transferred to it. It is this idea that water remembers things that most excites me.” The guiding principle of his works is—“to focus on creating spaces that allow for distilled experiences of natural phenomena for the public. My hope for this work is to promote curiosity and wonder in the natural world.”

Detailed View of Sympathetic Resonance, 2023, Water, stainless steel, speakers, cameras, custom software, Lachlan Turczan |Shaped by water | Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan| STIRworld
Detailed view of Sympathetic Resonance, 2023, Water, stainless steel, speakers, cameras, custom software, Lachlan Turczan Image: Courtesy of Google

In the first space, the visitors got to experience water as an invisible actor in shimmering water drop bowls, designed as the ultimate way to examine the optical and sonic qualities of water. An array of mirrored sculptures holds shallow pools of water. These polished vessels dissolved into their surroundings, taking on the personality of the space and allowing for a distilled experience of water’s sonic qualities. The water in various bowls moves in sympathetic resonance, responding to a person’s proximity as if in dialogue with the viewer. As the visitors gathered and moved around these bowls, their communal presence drove an energetic conversation, mirrored through an increase in activity and the changes to the wave patterns forming in the water. The proximity of the public was reflected in the infrasonic tones that formed wave patterns on the water’s surface.

The Pixel Watch by Google Design Studio, 2023, displayed next to a disk topped with a puddle of water, Google Design Studio | Shaped by water |Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan| STIRworld
The Pixel Watch by Google Design Studio, 2023, displayed next to a disk topped with a puddle of water, Google Design Studio Image: Courtesy of Google

The second space was devoted to a full-body sensory experience, where water, as a natural lens, was sculpted to reveal immersive light artwork that transports viewers into a pool of water. Choreographed music, paired with the science of cymatics, was used to create real-time wave patterns that were then reflected onto large disks overhead, displaying ever-shifting imagery that gave viewers a way to dream with their eyes open. Wavespace transported viewers into a bath of liquid light. While, the vibrational energy of music sculpted the pool of water into choreographed waves, transforming water into a kinetic, liquid lens. This natural lens refracted and reflected the light overhead into an ever-shifting lattice of imagery, with the resulting lightwork providing a visual stimulus for the public to dream with open eyes.

Wavespace, 2023, water, light, acrylic, stainless steel, speakers, couches, custom software, Lachlan Turczan |Shaped by water |Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan| STIRworld
Wavespace, 2023, water, light, acrylic, stainless steel, speakers, couches, custom software, Lachlan Turczan Image: Courtesy of Google

In the third space, visitors had the chance to contemplate about water up-close and in direct connection to how it inspired the design of Google’s hardware portfolio. Shaped by Water thereby extended the conversation on thoughtful design by grounding it in water—a life force that offers endless ways to reconnect and reimagine.

Detailed View of Wavespace, 2023, water, light, acrylic, stainless steel, speakers, couches, custom software, Lachlan Turczan|Shaped by water |Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan | STIRworld
Detailed view of Wavespace, 2023, water, light, acrylic, stainless steel, speakers, couches, custom software, Lachlan Turczan Image: Courtesy of Google

Shaped by Water was co-created by Google’s Vice President of Hardware Design, Ivy Ross, and her design team. Since 2017, they have launched a family of consumer hardware products ranging from smartphones to smart speakers, earning 56 different design awards. This collection of products established a design aesthetic for technology products that are tactile, bold, emotional, and undeniably Google.

Detailed View of Wavespace, 2023, water, light, acrylic, stainless steel, speakers, couches, custom software, Lachlan Turczan | Shaped by water |Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan| STIRworld
Detailed View of Wavespace, 2023, water, light, acrylic, stainless steel, speakers, couches, custom software, Lachlan Turczan Image: Courtesy of Google

Turczan, who was commissioned to create new site-specific works for the Shaped by Water installation, is a Los Angeles-based American artist working with water, light, and sound. The installation artist creates light artworks, water sculptures, and films that explore natural phenomena and the visualisation of sound. Over the past decade, Turczan has been developing his Wavespace series, a water-projection system that immerses viewers in a sonic light bath of caustic water reflections. He has exhibited work in museums and experimental film festivals across the United States. Turczan has also choreographed water and light shows on the world’s largest fountains, notably on the Dubai, Bellagio and Singapore airport fountains. These public artworks require close collaboration between engineers, designers and musicians—a process which has informed Turczan’s multidisciplinary practice.

Installation View of Sympathetic Resonance, 2023, water, stainless steel, speakers, cameras, custom software, Lachlan Turczan | Shaped by water |Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan| STIRworld
Installation view of Sympathetic Resonance, 2023, water, stainless steel, speakers, cameras, custom software, Lachlan Turczan Image: Courtesy of Google

Turczan says that being an LA native, he is “deeply inspired by the Light and Space Movement and its focus on shaping viewers’ perceptions with light. My work continues this philosophy, with an emphasis on the impact of natural phenomena on our human experience. In my pursuit to work with light, I discovered that water is the perfect medium—a liquid and kinetic optic. This led me to explore the use of sound as a sculptural tool to shape water. My current practice was born from this natural algorithm: sound forms water—water forms light—light forms perception. With Shaped by Water, I showcase this decade-long dedication to creating novel experiences through the interplay of water, light and sound. Much like cloud-gazing, or staring into a fire, the organic imagery that my work generates provides audiences with an opportunity to engage directly with their imaginations.”

Display of Google hardware products, 2023 | Shaped by water |Google Design Studio and Lachlan Turczan| STIRworld
Display view of Google hardware products, 2023 Image: Courtesy of Google

STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2023 showcases the best exhibitions, studios, designers, installations, brands, and special projects to look out for. Explore Euroluce 2023 and all the design districts—5Vie Art and Design, Brera Design District, Fuorisalone, Isola Design District, Tortona District, and Milano Design District—with us.

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