The Social Cave – Can We Design Interaction – Honour Guest Milano Furniture Fair 2011

The digital age has dissolved traditional conceptions of space. Whereas socialization once existed entirely within the physical realm, the virtual world has invited new rules and interaction within a previously unavailable dimension.

Growing virtual connectivity has certainly created a network of unlimited communication pathways. Yet while our social reach has extended, relationships spawned by the web often remain confined to the digital space in which they were initiated. The protection of that dematerialization is seductive; intimacy must no longer be defined by physicality. Emboldened by the blanket of physical anonymity, we may assert a redefined sense of privacy and closeness.

By merging physical and virtual space, how can design affect the changing vista of socialization? Can design encourage a new platform for interaction?

We were invited to design a small, interactive installation that would be encountered by hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom are strangers to each other. In response, we have proposed the Social Cave, a typology that returns to the beginnings of our civilization. The Cave will blend the frenzied excitement of virtual connectivity’s power and speed with the calm of its form and materiality, a parametric aggregation of 100% recycled and 100% recyclable foam cubes.

The barrier wall separating the two enclosures within the Cave ensures that visitors inhabiting each of those spaces are initially concealed from each other. The presence of a visitor in the opposite space is revealed only through an abstracted projection capturing his
movements. The physical anonymity created by the enclosure allows each visitor to feel comfortable engaging in a digital and visual conversation with the projected “shadow” or “ghost” of the visitor opposite him. Gestures and personalities are therefore made familiar to each other before the initial physical meeting. Thus, the Social Cave first hides and then exposes the proximity and identity of its visitors, allowing a conversation to begin that transcends traditional digital physical boundaries.

Concept + Schematic Design: Caterina Tiazzoldi Non Linear Solutions Unit / GSAPP Columbia University – Interaction Design with: Mirko Arcese and Luca Biada (

Teaching and Research assistants:

Bryce Suite, Daniel Cashen, Javier Zaratiegui, Mauro Fassino, Vernon Roether


Allen Robinson, Alvin Shim, Andrew Kim, Benjamin Brichta, Cristina Handal, Courtney Pope, Dionysis Kaltis, Elena Fammartino, Elena Kapompasopoulou, Elena Iannace, Evan Bauer, Florence Schmitt , George Valdes, Georgina Lalli, Hye Lee Oh, Jeohg-in Choi, Jevin Dornic, Katherine Thorn, Kelsey Lents , Michael Gonzales, Mukesh Rosso, Youmi Kim, Sanny Ngy


Marva Griffin / Chief Curator Salone Satellite
Mark Wigley / Dean Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation GSAPP Columbia University
Laura Kurgan / Director of the Visual Studies section at GSAPP Columbia University
Marco Piana, Gabriele Sala
Liliana Bazzanella, Pierre Alain Croset / DIPRADI Politecnico di Torino

Photos by : Alberto Ferrero


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