Public space has enjoyed a renewed focus in the urban environment, particularly in larger cities where space is limited and urban dwellers crave “life” among the built environment.

The design of these spaces generally look to complement their surrounding areas while providing practical and inspiring space for the public to connect. A certain level of greenery is usually installed in outdoor public spaces to contribute to sustainability, and seating areas and art installations can also be incorporated.

Streets, parks, squares and observation areas are seeing installations acting as light sources, moulded into areas for seating, and some clever concepts even integrate digital technology.

Spanish architectural firm Herreros Arquitectos has successfully demonstrated a digitally active concept through an installation called Urban Folly: Communication Hut in Gwangju, South Korea.

Communication Hut sits outside the main entrance of an Asian Cultural Complex and sets the boundary of the outdoor area. Constructed from a light metal frame, the sculpture is shaped like a curved ring that is suspended above a public area. The installation provides WiFi signals and is illuminated in the evening to give its users a safe resting place at night.

Communication Hut at night

Communication Hut at night

“This quest often revolved around the idea of protection for people and could be summarised in the physical action of ‘covering’ a space,” Herreros Arquitectos said.

The “covering” concept is achieved with the fluid structure elevated from the ground and supported by three dark steel poles aimed at “enhancing the effect of a heavy mass freed from the ground.”

The geometry and position of the surrounding trees define the exact collocation of Communication Hut with the ring weaving through through the treetops at a similar height.

“During the day, the sculpture emits technology and a purely visual presence while performing best at night,” the architects said, referring to the ground level which houses seating furniture and remains dimmed at night redirecting focus solely on the sculpture encouraging the illusion of a “floating” ring.

“The ground level, once cleaned of any unnecessary and interrupting element will be transformed into a neutral background ready to be re-utilised and conquered by the daily activities. Some of its pieces emerge and remain elevated freed from the ground stimulating various uses such as sitting, lying down, meeting others or connecting through a series of benches, tables or ‘urban altars.'”

Light painting WiFi

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi

Another similar installation in Korea that combines art and technology is Living Light in Seoul, South Korea.

The permanent outdoor installation doubles as a pavilion and is located within a public park. It can provide the public with text messages to provide up-to-the-minute information about local air quality.

The domed installation’s glass façade actually features a giant map of 27 local Seoul neighborhoods and every 15 minutes, sections of the map illuminate in bright neon outlining the best and the worst air quality in real time. The information is obtained from sensors from the Korean Ministry of Environment.

Designed by Soo-in Yang and David Benjamin, Living Light is part of is part of Seoul’s City Gallery Project, which aims to embed the city with  interactive art installations for the public to engage as they travel through.

In Norway, a temporary installation called Immmaterials: Light Painting WiFi  drew global recognition for its ability to expose the invisible WiFi signals in its surrounding space.

Using the photographic technique of “light painting”, Norwegian artists Timo Arnall, Jorn Knutsen and Einar Sneve Martinussen built an installation which features four metres of LED lights that respond to WiFi signals in the city.

The installation showcased images that demonstrated the different networks and their signs in a spatial representation. A video that demonstrates the building and installation of the instrument used was a finalist at the 2012 Vimeo Awards.