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Interview: James Law Creates Innovative 'Cybertecture' for the 21st Century




James Law's Cybertecture Mirror in action. (cybertecturemirror.com)

James Law's Cybertecture Mirror in action. (cybertecturemirror.com)

2012 has been officially designated the "Year of Design" in Hong Kong, which is appropriate given that the city's artists and designers are increasingly developing a reputation for creativity and dynamism. One such Hong Kong-based designer is entrepreneur James Law, founder of James Law Cybertecture International, a globally award-winning design firm with affiliated locations spread across Asia.

Law's flagship invention — the Cybertecture Mirror — is a seemingly standard mirror that converts to a digital display for customizable applications such as one's weight or the local weather forecast.

This Wednesday, April 4, at 6:30 pm Law appears in New York, along with architect Gary Chang and other experts, at an Asia Society panel discussion on Hong Kong's increasing prominence as a hub for cutting-edge architecture and design. For those who can't attend in person, a free live video webcast will be offered on AsiaSociety.org/Live at 6:30 pm ET; online viewers are encouraged to submit questions to [email protected].

Via email, Law spoke to Asia Blog about his inspirations, the foundation underlying his company's mission, and his long-term vision.

Your Cybertecture Mirror invention is not only appealing aesthetically but also holds a huge scope for practical uses — an exemplar for merging the beauty of architectural design with evolving technology. Of all things, what made you choose to work with a mirror?

My personal philosophy of Cybertecture centers on a mission to "innovate the fabric of mankind." This is the effect that every designer can have. In my work, I try to innovate our environment and society by utilizing a new synergy between technology and design that allows for everyday ubiquitous objects to become something more powerful and empowering to the user.

What is more ubiquitous than a mirror, which almost everyone looks into everyday to reflect upon their own image? By designing through Cybertecture, a mirror is then transformed into a reflective window to a digital life, augmenting the reflected image with interactivity of information that is useful for people. Maybe one day, all mirrors will become like a Cybertecture Mirror.

The term "sustainability" can be a very elusive or vague concept to an average person. What is Cybertecture's interpretation of the concept, and could you give an example of how you have successfully incorporated sustainability into your designs?

"Sustainability" has become elusive in meaning in the present-day, highly charged discourse surrounding the macro issues of our planet's survival. Yet "sustainability" is actually something that has always been inherently intimate and very simple in each and everyones' lives. I call this kind of sustainability "human sustainability" — which is the sense that what we do and design and build is for humans to relieve suffering, to gain knowledge and wisdom, and to find balance with our surroundings.

Cybertecture is all about bringing "human sustainability" to buildings, spaces and objects to enhance the lives of the people using it. For example, my Cybertecture Mirror monitors the health of the user in his reflection, thereby bringing to him an active knowledge of the balance that he seeks to have in his life.

One of Cybertecture’s goals in design solutions is to be "holistic to the overall user environment." Can you expand upon this statement with some examples?

In the egocentric world that man has created, most designs are focused the the functional needs of the people inside. What I mean by "holistic to the overall user environment" is that all elements of nature — including man, plants, sunlight, water, etc. — should be considered in every design.

For example, our project "Technosphere" is the world's largest structure that mimics the forces and processes of our planet — for the people inside, for the water used, for the plants grown, for the recycling of energy — to arrive at an architecture which is not just focused on man's needs, but also the planet's.

Your innovations fall into the luxury market. Do you foresee your company tapping into product solutions for the average consumer in the near future?

Yes, it is true that we are currently in the luxury market. But the goal is to mature new concepts into readily available solutions for the average consumer. We utilize the economic might of the luxury market to help fund our development and innovation, in order for it to be nurtured to the mass market.

Do you have any particular role models in the architectural and technological industries who have inspired you? If so, can you explain how they may have catalyzed a company mission, vision, or particular design solution for you?

I have a whole series of role models, some real, some fictional, who have inspired me in architecture and technology. Here is a list:

  • Howard Roark, the fictional architect from the book The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, inspires me to follow my destiny and convictions.
  • Captain James T. Kirk, the fictional captain of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek, inspires me to "boldly go where no man has gone before."
  • Buckminster Fuller, the engineer, inspires me to reach beyond the bounds of the ordinary in my own field.
  • Steve Jobs, the late founder and CEO of Apple, inspires me that you can openly empower people through your dream designs and products, and by being an entrepreneur.
  • Neil Armstrong, the astronaut, inspires me that nothing is impossible if all of us work together to "put a man on the moon."

These are many other people have inspired me on my own mission to shape a company that is focused on designing things that will change the world for the better, and to open the hearts and minds of people. Nothing is impossible. Everything is possible.

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