On the heels of opening their first U.S. office in Manhattan, London’s Universal (formerly Universal Design Studio) unveiled a performance-based installation at A/D/O/ by Mini in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The participatory On Loop underpins the firm’s research and development-driven methodology, a process of collaborative experimentation to design unique spaces that interact with their users. In a sort of “formal-exercise-slash-performance-piece” hybrid, the installation underscores this ethos with a set up that asks visitors to experiment and co-create. 

On view through the duration of this year’s Archtober, On Loop highlights the design process with an unassuming setup. Fashioned from inexpensive materials—plywood, plexiglass, and masking tape—a half-painted loop and semicircular shelf circumscribe a round table and stools. Inspired by the Surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, where a drawing is arbitrarily finished by multiple artists, visitors are encouraged to participate in an on-going evolution of infinite accidental outcomes. In this context, masking tape is randomly placed on a plexiglass square on a spinning tabletop slide carrousel-like display. Over the 31 days On Loop remains on display, the “finished” works by individuals will contribute to a collective display on the installation’s surrounding shelf. 

A close up view of the plexiglass works "On Loop"

Here, precariously placed tape applied to plexiglass boards creates a domino-like effect—a fitting example of how individual pieces create a collective work. (Andres Sebastian)

Universal will continue to activate its New York presence with a series of workshops co-led by local artists, designers, and makers. With the same premise as On Loop, the programming will ask visitors to participate in a similar Exquisite Corpse-like performance in different mediums. Including a clay, sound, drawing, writing, motion graphics, and food, the curious selection of medium-focused workshops can be found on the dedicated A/D/O/ Eventbrite page

At their new location in the Manhattan wing of design agency AKQA, Universal will focus on continuing to collaborate with local architects, designers, and artists on various projects. When asked, they took particular interest in the hospitality typology—citing previous projects like the London Ace Hotel and Stockholm’s At Six Hotel. The design duo will operate on a bi-continental basis; codirectors Jason Holley and Paul Gulati will continue to work with founders Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby in London and at AKQA in New York.

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