Building Borderless

Ahead of the opening of the first permanent teamLab Borderless museum in the Middle East, TPiMEA catches up with BeWunder’s Senior Project Manager Daniel Charles, who gives an update on the progress of the project and shares his experience of living and working in Jeddah.

Founded in Tokyo in 2001, Japanese art collective teamLab has become world renowned for the innovative use of digital technology within its exhibitions. Made up of artists, programmers, engineers, computer graphics animators, mathematicians, architects and graphic designers, the multidisciplinary company is set to open its first permanent teamLab Borderless museum in Jeddah early next year.

With a laser-like focus on maintaining the exacting standards that the exhibitions have become known for around the world, nothing but the very highest quality of installation will do for teamLab. Tasked with living up to these expectations is BeWunder – a company that seems almost tailor made for high-profile installations such as this. “At BeWunder, what many would call Systems Integration, we call Spatial Experiences, because we specialise in delivering immersive experience-driven installations,” began Senior Project Manager, Daniel Charles.

Working with specialist fitout company MAC, the Bewunder team started work on the project around June this year. “We started with a concept from teamLAB and we have brought that to a full technical design within the space of fourth months,” Charles revealed, adding his thoughts on the pace of progress in Saudi Arabia in general. “Everything seems to move incredibly quickly here – even compared with the UAE, which we all know is fast-paced!”

While much of the technical specification is still under wraps for the time being, Charles was able to reveal that more than 800 projectors and 1,000 PCs have been purchased for this installation alone. “BeWunder has been investing heavily in new stock across the board, and we’re keen to ensure that we can more than meet the demand in Saudi Arabia,” he commented. “We’ve got the space for it, we’ve got the work, so why wouldn’t we?”

As well as the vast amount of purchased kit, the Bewunder team has also been hard at work on numerous bespoke lighting and special effects solutions, created to the exact specification of teamLab. “Everything has been carefully considered,” he stated. “There’s even a specific type of liquid that must be used for the smoke machines, which creates the artist’s desired effect.”

While delivering to such exacting standards to meet artistic intent can be challenging, the Bewunder team is used to working with artists and knows what to expect. “Artists usually have a very specific vision and idea of what they want to convey to the audience, and we must be sympathetic to that and make it happen,” Charles explained. “We can’t just be stuck in our own way of thinking. Sometimes we end up doing things in an unusual or even occasionally impractical way, but we do that to convey the artist’s message as it was intended. Their art must be displayed how they envision it.”

Another consideration when working with artistic talent is that it can lead to technical changes throughout the project. “During the design process, the artist’s creative thinking changes over time, so the design can morph and adapt as the project goes on,” Charles said. “These are all challenges, but it is why we love what we do. We want to produce something that the artist is proud of.”

Speaking in more general terms, Charles believes that digital art museums such as this are going to become increasingly popular over the next 10 to 15 years. “Given the huge influx of technology into museums in general, it stands to reason that there’s be an increased demand for these experience-led venues and exhibitions,” he reasoned.

Speaking from his accommodation close to site in Jeddah’s old town of Balad, Charles told TPiMEA of his impressions of Jeddah so far. “I’m loving it here!” he beamed. “There is loads going on, the people are so friendly, I love the culture here, and the beach is beautiful. It’s a very pleasant place to be.”

Photos: teamLab