Severino Alfonso and Loukia Tsafoulia (Artist Collective)
Severino Alfonso and Loukia Tsafoulia are architects, educators, and researchers whose work intersects artistic praxis, technology, and digital culture. Their scholarly research is positioned at the intersection of responsive environments, cognitive sciences, and computational design. They both hold a Post-Professional MS in Advanced Architectural Design from the Graduate School of Planning and Preservation, Columbia University. They are founders of the PLB studio design practice and Assistant Professors at the College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Thomas Jefferson University, where they co-direct the Synesthetic Research and Design Lab. The SR&DLab is a research-design platform that develops practical and theoretical design methodologies to critically frame the interactions between humans, objects, and environments. The lab employs design systems that provide a layered understanding of embodied spaces—affective and performative—through the experimental meshing of the physical and digital realms. It partners with neurodivergent advocacy communities and medical and industry experts to build collective knowledge that addresses all-inclusive ways of perceptually experiencing our spaces. Their work has been exhibited in international art and design venues such as the Trajan’s Market Museum of the Imperial Fora in Rome, Italy (2022), the 2021 European Cultural Center, Venice Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy, the Municipal Theater of Piraeus in Athens, Greece (2021-2022), the IE Creativity Center/Casa de la Moneda in Segovia, Spain, the London 3dPrint Show, ICFF in New York, and more.
Individuals with autism frequently seek smaller, sensory-friendly spaces to help them self-regulate. Soft’s curvilinear, nature-inspired geometry creates a smooth transition entry zone from a larger space to an intimate interior. Its geometric composition, material, light, sound, and overall detailing follow evidence-based research to provide multiple options and space personalization. In tandem, Soft is a responsive environment that uses distant-to-the-body technology to adapt its interior space’s sonic and light characteristics in real-time and in response to a person’s biometrics. It examines how modifying sensory aspects of an interior environment —focusing on the combined effects of sound and light— can affect an individual’s physiological and psychological factors. Soft employs emerging strategies that visualize relationships between the human body, mind states, and spatial aspects, including interactive sonification based on joint movement analysis, the translation of respiratory rates or emotional states to dynamic light projections, and sound qualities to tactile wall surfaces.
The project has a dual goal: it offers a spatial solution that responds to the needs of neurodivergent individuals and acts as a research framework for embodied and affective systems addressing design for inclusive environments. It serves several contexts, such as sensory-loaded lobbies, educational facilities, theaters’ foyers, or hospitals’ calm-down rooms, to name a few. In alignment with the ReSilence call to think of sound as a full-body experience, Soft’s multimodal sensory aspects derive from our extensive research on human cognition and perception, inclusive art and design, and emergent digital technologies. We explore the artist’s agency as a mediator between the instrumentality of our design tools, the performance of space, and the occupant’s perception. In asking how we greet differences and make individuals comfortable, our immersive artwork is a vessel for recommendations for overlooked experiences.
Project : Soft, a prototype for responsive environments and neurodivergence
Project Soft is a spatial “wearable”; an encapsulated, safe space with an adaptive interior environment where sound experience occurs via a full-body approach. In combining science, technology, and design expertise with the lived experience of neurodivergent advocates, Soft investigates the challenges stressful sonic environments present to neurodivergent individuals and the healing opportunities of sensory multimodal and responsive spaces for all.