“The observer should play an active role in perceiving the world and have a creative part in developing his image”: with these words the American urban planner Kevin Lynch suggested in his 1961 book The Image of the City a radical change of perspective in the design of urban spaces.

The planner should have, according to Lynch, consider the manner in which the spaces that he had to design would be perceived and experienced by people: the construction of places where you try to foster communication between who experiences them is a dynamic that has had many developments in recent decades , both in the architectural and artistic fields. To quote one of the artists who in recent years has been working in this field of research, “collectivity, which is such a fragile entity, needs to be not just framed by architecture but it needs to be nurtured by architecture. Architecture co-produced responsibility, it co-produced social values, it co-produces the democracy with which we praise ourselves” (“An Interview With Olafur Eliasson, On Crossing Between Art And Architecture”, 2011).

Looking at the Minimaforms studio’s projects, we can perceive the implementation of these reflections: many of their works are interdisciplinary, using the most advanced technologies to create opportunities for dialogue among the audience and there are no limits in the distinction between categories of design and architecture.


Founded in 2002 by brothers Stephen and Theodore Spyropoulos, the studio has created projects posing questions on how we communicate in an increasingly artificial and culturally mediated environment like the present.

Filippo Lorenzin: How and why did you found Minimaforms? Could you describe the path you followed in the last decade?

Theodore Spyropoulos: Stephen and I founded Minimaforms as a framework to experiment and explore ideas to facilitate new forms of communication in architecture and design. We believe that design should challenge convention and enable new relationships between users and their environments. Having the opportunity to work within offices prior that were pushing non-standard approaches in making and design, we felt beyond formal approaches we wanted to construct environments that have the capacity to evolve, adapt and interact with people. Our interest was and remains to move beyond models and methods that reinforced the fixed and finite and embrace an approach towards design that are dynamic and evolving.

Stephen is an artist and interaction designer and I was trained as an architect. We never believed in disciplinary distinctions within design. These distinctions for us were artificial and we pursued projects without categorization regarding our response. This has afforded us to work on a range of design interventions from interfaces, landscapes, vehicles, atmospheres, and buildings to master plans.


Filippo Lorenzin: You describe the studio as one that embraces a “generative and behavioral approach”: what does it mean in your daily work experience?

Theodore Spyropoulos: We believe in participatory and enabling models of design that give users the capacity to influence and shape their environment. We want our environments to evolve life-like attributes that engage the everyday and stimulate our interactions with each other. We believe that design should account for uncertainty and the unknown and develop an approach that will allow for adaption and evolution. Our work is time-based and scenario driven. In this regards, we employ a working methodology that we call behavioral design and that explores generative forms of practice within social and material agency.

Our conceptual approach towards design offers us a means of how we can interrogate these ideas and processes and organize ourselves accordingly to address these challenges. Design is our mode of enquiry to ask more informed questions of how to operate, challenge and redefine convention.

Progress for us is about enabling in particular the practice of architecture and design to evolve, to actively participate in ongoing issues. Design for us does not have a finite definition – it is an environment for intellectual and spatial interrogation. We have to situate and contextualize our ability to define, communicate and make accessible. Design, in all forms of creative practice, has to be dynamic and evolving, to deal with ways of addressing time, latency and uncertainty.


Filippo Lorenzin: Your projects are often focused on the establishment of spaces of social and material interaction. I would like to focus on the social element: is there any kind of utopic or political purpose in your work?

Theodore Spyropoulos: We are interested constructing frameworks to enable participation for today. Our work creates a context for a conversation… and we purposefully allow this to be open and take on its own form. We believe very strongly in constructing frameworks to enable social interaction, to animate public space as a medium of collective interaction and expression. We see design as assisting and challenging the inert built environment, enabling new relationships that gives over the city to the people. It seems in contemporary times people’s engagement with the city has become pre-conditioned or limited; it is important for us to find means in which we can explore space as public and shared. The move towards making things more shared and collective also encourages people to really engage with things. That level of engagement is very important to us.

What we mean by this is most clearly demonstrated in our work Memory Cloud that was performed in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2008 and outside the Detroit Institute of Art in 2011. Memory Cloud created a dynamic hybrid space that communicated personal statements as part of an evolving text, animating the built environment through conversation. Interaction was facilitated through mobile phones allowing for an open, personal and accessible medium for exchange.


Filippo Lorenzin: Petting Zoo (2013) is one of your projects that most tries to create an open dialogue between humans and machines in an epoch in which tech is at the center of a debate about the impact of machinery on human behaviors and I can not think that this kind of projects aim to depict an optimistic future.

Theodore Spyropoulos: Technology for us is a human pursuit. It is an enabling agency that necessitates an active intellectual, cultural and social enquiry. Our Petting Zoo project is not pessimistic or optimistic, it is exploring artificial intelligence and robotics and the emotive relationships that can be fostered between humans and machines within an environment. We are exploring behavior.

The project is speculative life-like robotic environment that raises questions of how future environments could actively enable new forms of communication with the everyday. Artificial intelligent creatures have been designed with the capacity to learn and explore behaviors through interaction with participants. Within this immersive installation interaction with the pets foster human curiosity, play, forging intimate exchanges that are emotive and evolving over time. Beyond technology the project explores new forms of enabled communication between people and their environment.

Filippo Lorenzin: Could you describe your usual creative process?

Theodore Spyropoulos: Conversational.

Filippo Lorenzin: How does it work?

Theodore Spyropoulos: Sharing motivation and an unapologetic belief that design can be a positive agent of change in this world.


Filippo Lorenzin: What are your plans for the future? Any new projects?

Theodore Spyropoulos: The last couple of years in particular has been very exciting for us, as we have worked across all scales of design from robotic installations to a master plan for the city of Osaka in Japan. We continue to develop our work and look forward to the challenges that lay ahead. Our project in Athens, including two thematic landmarks and the illumination of a national park that has been master planned by Renzo Piano, is ongoing. Our collaborations with musicians will continue this year. Most recently we worked with Grammy winner Imogen Heap for her stage design and tour. In March we will be showcasing a new piece titled Emotive City as part of Nesta’s FutureFest, which will be a speculative emotive prototype of a future self-organized, self-aware and structured city. We are also working on a new publication that showcases the last five years of work since our first monograph Enabling was published.