Ben Hooker and Shona Kitchen
Ben Hooker and Shona Kitchen
Hard Shoulders Soft Verges

view the online prototype here
Hard Shoulders Soft Verges is an experimental project to explore how physical and electronic spaces can be designed in conjunction with each other to provide new kinds of experience in the city.

We are designing interfaces between virtual landscapes created by sensor data, computation and information flows and the built physical environment so that existing spaces are electronically extended to amplify their richness, intricacy and narrative possibilities.

In Hard Shoulders Soft Verges we are specifically designing for environments found at the city limits, where open countryside starts to rub up against suburbia places where the regulated 'nature' of landscaped motorway embankments, reservoir parks and allotments coexists with airports, business parks and residential blocks.

Considering sites like these, we are using interactive computer-based illustrations to communicate a series of proposals based on developing synthetic ecologies to integrate into these spaces to the effect that the information flows that run around and through our cities can be experienced in the same way as natural phenomenon in the physical world.

Click here to close this window


Ben Hooker is a research fellow and tutor in the Interaction Design Research Studio at the Royal College of Art. Ben has always enjoyed designing things that can only exist on the electronic surface of the computer screen. However recent project collaborations with industrial designers and architects have muddled this understanding of where the screen ends and the real world begins. His latest project, Altavistas, explores this blurred boundary through designs for structures and devices that act as interfaces between the built, physical environment and the electronic, transient data-environments that exist inside computer systems. It is an experimental project which illustrates ways to amplify the richness, intricacy, and narrative possibilities of a series of city-wide sites by 'irrigating' them electronically. Altavistas is a collaboration with Shona Kitchen.

Ben is a graduate of the RCA's Computer Related Design programme and has a degree in Electronic Imaging and Media Communications, a course jointly run by Bradford University and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.

Shona Kitchen graduated from the RCA in 1997 with an MA in Architecture and has since been working part-time within the Interaction Design Research Studio working on projects such as Presence, Flirt and presently on Altavistas.

(Flirt was an EU funded research project which investigated, by proposing new kinds of location-based services, the potential of mobile phones as a medium for social interaction and play. Presence was a three year EU project which developed innovative interaction techniques to increase the presence of older people in their local communities.)

Her work explores the space in between the virtual and the real; creating different types of spaces which can be integrated into different mediums. These experiments fall between the work within the RCA with Ben Hooker and her design practice Kitchen Rogers Design (KRD) who create a wide range of designs from responsive Gallery based installations to commercial design projects for example a new shop for Comme des Garcons in Paris, incorporating an automated space, which opened in 2001.


Click here to view the project proposal PDF.

Click here to view the project website.

Click here to view the project response PDF.