Mixing light, sound and space sounds rather complex, but a creative team from Berlin seems to have got the combination just right. The proof is in their successful touring installation.
About six years ago in Barcelona, in the early hours of the morning, Kevin Karlberg first discovered Kubik. The Melburnian was on holiday in Spain and, by chance, fell upon the installation. “As soon as I saw it, I knew that was what I had to do,” he says.
He’d been working in Melbourne as a music manager/event organiser and had always had a thirst to match installation-style art with a nightclub or bar experience. “In the 1990s when I was organising warehouse rave parties with lasers and videos, it was always just like a concert or a stage show… you were in the crowd watching it. I wanted people to rather be immersed in it,” he explains.
Karlberg contacted Kubik’s international organisers, Balestra Berlin, and planted the seed for Kubik to make its southern hemisphere debut in Melbourne. And finally, in November 2011, it did.
The Kubik concept was first activated by Balestra Berlin in 2006 and since then has travelled to over 22 cities around the world. “Berlin and other metropolis of Europe are full of urban gaps. Unused places which offer the potential to create something wonderful,” says Silvana de Hillerin, founder of Balestra Berlin. The idea is to connect light, space and sound in an urban setting, in both a sustainable and unique way. By using a combination of stacked water tanks, light shows and electronic beats, Kubik presents a piece of inspiring architecture that interacts with the music and the audience’s mood.
Balestra deals with each installation on a case-by-case basis. “In each city, the team is really aware of the importance of local knowledge and works closely with someone who’ll know exactly what it takes to get the event off the ground,” explains Karlberg.
Kubik Melbourne was produced in collaboration with Karlberg’s company, Marksthespot, and ran as part of Melbourne Music Week 2011. “Originally, Kubik Melbourne was going to run for two months down at Docklands – it was just supposed to be Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I never imagined it would be 11 days, back-to-back, right in the heart of the city at Birrarung Marr,” says Karlberg.
The two teams worked closely on most aspects of the project, including the lighting program, colour tones and effects. The City of Melbourne was also consulted during the process, especially in terms of approving the structure. It took eight attempts to find a design that actually worked (using 176 stacked water tanks). Considerations included finding a way to contain the sound within the structure, but also ensuring that the structure was windproof. “Plus, it still had to have a nightclub space and an installation feel, but where you could walk underneath, around and through it,” says Karlberg.
Once open, by night the structure operated as a music installation to suit a range of different tastes (from indie to dance to a live orchestra), while by day it was a French café.
As with the Melbourne event, each Kubik is a creative challenge for Balestra, every project starting with just a single water tank. “The architectural challenges for us are limitless, as we can create rooms in different sizes, heights and formations,” says de Hillerin.
Thumbnail image: Kubik Melbourne by Alexsander Jason Kostadiniski.