architecture

Philippe Stark’s Faena, Adventure Games and Reality Experience Design

Jane McGonigal explains that games do a great job giving people the chance to live great experiences and alternate realities, and that real life does not keep up. “Reality is broken” according to her. She proposed that we, experience designers, should think about UX of reality and how to bring happiness to peoples lives. Let me tell you a story…

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit the Faena Hotel, designed by Philippe Stark, in Buenos Aires. It was great arriving there after the sunset, for the lighting design played a huge role in setting the mood of the experience I was about to have.

Right after passing the first outside door and some nicely dressed folks you walk through some plants filled with tiny red lights, like those used in xmas trees. It was like a red lit tunnel, 3 meters long, that took you to the main door, a big one that granted access to the inside.


When inside the ceiling goes way up, giving a sense of grandiosity. It’s a huge, dark, greyish corridor with portières and curtains on the walls. Spots with amber lights came from the floor iluminating them. In the middle, dividing the corridor in two, there was a huge line of benches that went all the way down to the end of the corridor. They had red lights coming from below that iluminated the floor all the way. It had this kind of misterious atmosphere.

When walking through the corridor you could notice doors on the sides. Each door led to a completely different room, with it’s own deco, lights, mood and personality. It was like a magical place, with warp zones that would take you to many sorts of experiences.

The door I was looking for was the entrance to El Bistro Restaurant. It was the one with the biggest contrast. The restaurant is white. Big time, shining white. Some few red and gold elements were combined. There were white unicorn heads coming out of the walls. The white leather sofas had golden feline paws as legs. It was not like anything I’ve seen before. It was not breaking rules. Instead, it had it’s own rules.

The food was also unique and had exquisite mixtures. The chef had some inspiration in Ferran Adrià. A truly unique experience.

What got me impressed is that the experience was so unique for me that I had myself paying attention in everything. I was not thinking about the past or about something I could do in the future. My mind was there, in the present. I was really engaged.

Looking back, I began to think how related to an adventure game or alternate virtual reality it was. It was a new place, created by someone that had put attention in EVERY detail. Everything was designed to make you feel a certain way. Everything had a purpose. A red lit tunnel made a transition from the real world to this new world. A misterious corridor led you to different “magical” places, each with different sensorial experiences. Better than a game, it played not only with visual and sounds but with other senses. The food taste was great and unique and smelled good. It got my mind in flow, engaged, just like a good game.

Of course there are many other things that could sum up to make the experience more game like, but this is, for me, UX of reality. This is how we bring more joy to reality, and make it more unique and worthwhile.

To be continued…

06 09.2008 • •
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