Project Name: Arrival
Practice: Wutopia Lab
Firm Location: Shanghai
Completion year: 2022
Project Location: Shanghai
Lead Architects: Yu Ting
Others: Project Architect: Pu Shengrui, Liang Zee, Constructor: RoboticPlus.AI
Photo Credits: CreatAR ImagesMore Specs
Excerpt: Arrival is an installation designed by architectural design firm Wutopia Lab. Arriving at the square, the black BDO is a symbolist installation simultaneously expressing divinity and humanity. Inside this silent black rectangle lies a karst cave that you must explore, climb, and then you will see a yellow sinkhole that shines over your head. You will be taken into a trance and contemplate the meaning of your existence in this busy city. At this moment, the black BDO that descends is the sacred space of this secular city.
(“Text as submitted by the Architects”)
“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars; now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
TOPYS, in collaboration with Roboticplus.AI, commissioned Wutopia Lab to inaugurate a magical realism installation with 3D printing on Star Plaza in The MixC, Shanghai, Arrival. It is also an attempt at Wutopia Lab’s project of reviving urban micro spaces.
Star Plaza is sandwiched between the back of The MixC and the north parking garage, with a subway entrance and exit on the square. Turning into a pure traffic site, TOPYS wanted to invite Wutopia Lab to create an installation that would activate sociality and the Star Plaza. Since there is a subway underneath the Star Plaza, the floor slab has a load capacity of only 3.5KN per square meter. TOPYS also wanted the social installation to be functional and indicative.
Technology and Art
I stood in the middle of the Star Plaza and felt a little confused. The sense of place here stripped away everything I knew. The site was not Shanghai. It was as if I was standing in some vague location in any city, not even at that point in 2021. This feeling inspired me to explore some possibilities of futurism and science fiction. I decided to redefine an ambiguous site by implanting a definite Palladium in an ambiguous site in the manner of Marguerite or Roland Emmerich. It also had to have the maximum volume that the budget would allow. In the uncertain daylight of Shanghai, black became my very choice. I decided to design a light huge black BDO.
I contacted Roboticplus.AI, and we thought it possible to create an extreme volume of 3*3*7 using 3D printing technology. The weight is only 650 kg (the same volume of water would be 63,000 kg). But being light can also be unstable. Roboticplus.AI has been calculated to join the steel structure (and the stairs) to stabilize the base. The total weight ends up being two tons. It meets the requirement that a floor of 9 square meters can only withstand 3.15 tons. So, it was agreed to 3D print an ABS black BDO with a robot. I call it Arrival.
“You know I’ve had my head tilted up to the stars for as long as I can remember. Do you know what surprised me the most? It wasn’t meeting them. It was meeting you.”
The Arrival of BDO
Arriving at the square, the black BDO is a symbolist installation simultaneously expressing divinity and humanity. Inside this silent black rectangle lies a karst cave that you must explore, climb, and then you will see a yellow sinkhole that shines over your head. You will be taken into a trance and contemplate the meaning of your existence in this busy city. At this moment, the black BDO that descends is the sacred space of this secular city. The interior of the black BDO is inspired by the book “Underland”. In contrast, the exterior is inspired by the Stargate. The important thing is that its Arrival will activate a communal space on edge.
“Roads? Where we are going… we don’t need roads.”
— Back to the Future
Robot Printed BDO
Arrival is 3D printed by the ROBIM platform that connects the design and factory sides through Roboticplus.AI. To achieve design-build interconnection, combining parametric design and space printing digital construction technology. The production also gives full play to the broad degrees of freedom of the six-axis robotic arm to maximize the most efficient production size, cloud-based order production files, and unmanned automated production. The final factory took 1.5 months to print the BDO in modified acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which took a week to install on-site.
“The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”
— Terminator 2
The braiding ABS finally creates a translucent black BDO. The yellow sinkhole is faintly visible in the daylight. At night it looks like a giant lantern again. This silent installation expresses all the messages and ideas that the architects wanted to convey to the city and its inhabitants in a theatrical language like a mime. It is a temporary urban monument about the future that can be accessed.
“A vision of the universe that undeniably tells us how tiny, insignificant, rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something greater than ourselves, that we are *not*, that none of us is alone!”