Superficium Studio’s haptic Wellness Hotspots offer a momentary refuge for at-home city workers.

In the lead up to each issue, we challenge emerging designers to respond to the Frame Lab theme with a forward-looking concept. Lingering travel restrictions mean urbanites looking for an escape from daily life are more bound to their immediate surroundings, leaving local hospitality entrepreneurs questioning how to evolve to best serve them. To find answers for Frame 140, we asked three creative practices to share their ideas.

After both graduating from the UK’s Architectural Association School of Architecture, Samuel Esses and Jonathan Wong cofounded Superficium Studio, whose work speculates on future possibilities of architecture at the intersection between technology and culture. Designed to interweave with the urban context, the Wellness Hotspots by Superficium Studio are haptic devices that employ XR technology to recuperate mental and physical wellbeing.

What shifts do you believe are driving hospitality today?

SAMUEL ESSES: There’s an increased need for privacy and personalization, which will likely persist within the industry following the pandemic. As a result, new forms of hospitality will have to be found.

JONATHAN WONG: We also believe it’s important to consider the effects of the rise of the working-from-home lifestyle. The monotony of environment this results in for people, and the lifestyle’s local character in general, urged us to think about a new type of inner-city sanctuary that can offer a more everyday form of hospitality that fits into today’s fluid work-life schedules. 

Where did these thoughts lead you?

SE: Our proposal aims to provide momentary hospitality experiences in an urban context as a form of everyday therapy. The Wellness Hotspots we came up with are furniture-like pieces scaled to spatially enclose the user. They function like haptic devices and are accompanied by a digital XR experience.

When a user takes place in a pod and starts the journey, their body is stimulated through touch points as a feedback interface to the digital experience, meant to help recuperate mental and physical wellbeing. The size of the hotspots allows for either an individual or a small group, from partners to friends, to enter. Without compromising on privacy, soft openings in the design’s geometry provide an element of openness and breathability to these intimate spaces. 

What are the Wellness Hotspots made out of?

JW: They are multi-material. Material properties transition between colour, transparency and stiffness through a heterogenous design. Material gradations in the exterior shell provide structural reinforcement at stress points on the surface. Internally, pneumatic silicon pockets on the touch points allow for certain environmental qualities like temperature to be adjusted in line with the simulated environment the user is interfacing with.

How are the shapes of the pods defined?

SE: A range of body positions were used to define the space algorithmically, allowing the design to be mass customized according to individual clients or user needs. We also propose a more sustainable method of fabrication through the use of 3D-printed biopolymer composites, bioplastics and silicone elastomers. 

Get your copy of Frame 140 here.