Thirteen years ago four friends full of reckless youthful optimism started a company. The aim? To make films which were fun yet informative and would shake up the way architecture is communicated. Thirteen years later the style and approach remains much the same but our company has grown and changed in exciting and sometimes unexpected ways. Today, Squint/Opera is a creative studio, full production house, bar and events space employing over 150 people across four countries. Along the way there have been some interesting moments, we’ve picked out a few which have helped us get to where we are today.
2003 to 2004: where it all began We started in the corner of an architecture studio in Battersea equipped with simple camera kit and software. Our first commissions helped to communicate the regeneration of a number of post-industrial towns in England. One of the earliest examples was Bradford Picture a City, which went on to be exhibited in MoMa.
Bradford Picture a City.
2005: deep fry Chips, a film about Will Alsop's RIBA award-winning community eco-homes, kept things colourful and playful. Before we could afford to pay for actors many of our Directors played the leading roles in our early films!
2006: everything goes 3d In 2006 Creative Director Nick Taylor joined, bringing extensive 3d expertise which added a new flavour. Slick 3d artistry was combined with great narrative and a playful style. We were commissioned by landscape architects Grant Associates to create a visionary animated film for the spectacular Singapore Gardens. The film helped Grant's win the international design competition and put Squint/Opera on the map.
2007: doodle your own architectural vision Through collaboration with talented artist Serge Seidlitz we created Doodlearth. We encouraged the public to draw on a large canvas with a projected cityscape. The aim was to reflect the multitude of styles and languages present in the beautiful chaos of modern cities.
2008: ch-ch-ch-changes Just as our reputation was growing, the financial crisis struck. This was a turning point. We continued to work on great projects but would also begin experimenting with new ideas and break-out projects over the coming years. We opened studios in Australia and the Middle East, began our first venture in broadcast with animations for Channel 4’s Fonejacker and opened the exhibition Flooded London, which depicted future generations of Londoners coping with rising sea levels in a mostly abandoned city.
2009: come and draw on our walls The warehouse below our studio was becoming deserted during the recession so we decided to whitewash the walls and start a bar with a blank canvas for creativity, encouraging local artists and the community back into our space. 2009 also saw the official launch of Squint/Opera’s sister company Coda Cola who produce all the music for our productions.
The original Doodle Bar.
2010: launching the games This was a bumper year for us. We worked with leading sports architects Populous to launch the 2012 Olympic stadium with our playful film which was used by all major broadcasters (BBC, SKY, CNN) and completed our film about the regeneration of the World Trade Center site which was shown in subways, ports and airports across the city.
Squint/Opera's film which launched the 2012 Olympic Stadium.
The regeneration of the World Trade Centre.
2011: when you need to know go to Okido We happily stumbled across a fantastic scientist and a talented illustrator who'd founded Okido, an arts and science magazine for kids, we decided to make it into an animation - more on this later. Meanwhile, the Doodle Bar had been refurbished and was going from strength-to-strength, hosting pop ups and exciting urban space regenerators. Meanwhile back in our studio, the team were busy pushing technology, building an iPod controlled model of London’s Royal Docks.
Okido - an arts and science magazine for children aged 3 - 7.
The refurbished Doodle Bar.
Royal Docks media table.
2012: branding and digital We continued to explore digital and spatial projects including a website and app for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and a series of media walls for Newham and Douglas & Gordan. Our studio was expanding with a growing graphic design team providing branding for a range of products and organisations such as Give Me Tap, BSkyB, Edge of Arabia, SomewhereTo and Samba Mobile.
A selection of branding projects.
2013: Olympics, World Cup and Hollywood For the 2014 World Cup we created an award winning film and app using real time 3d visualisation, a technology also employed on the Siemen’s Crystal interactive exhibition. Our knowledge of digital media combined with a love of culture led us to a new venture creating exhibits for museums such as the V&A’s Hollywood Costumes which won the Drum Award in 2013.
The award winning film for the 2014 World Cup.
Hollywood Costume exhibition which won a 2013 Drum award.
2014: have fun and learn Back to Okido, our kid’s TV show was commissioned by the BBC and we got in a heap of talented people to make 52 episodes, doubling our studio in space and numbers. More installations opened including WCMC Discovery Wall, an artwork created from thousands of tiny screens which communicates the work of a major medical research centre in New York.
The trailer for Okido, a 52-part series which will launch on BBC in the autumn.
The WCMC Discovery Wall: a wall-sized digital artwork communicating medical research.
2015: BIG things With Okido set to launch in the Autumn it has been a busy year so far. We have completed a number of films for architect Bjarke Ingels, digital media and graphic applications for the UKTI Pavilion and the Doodle Bar continues to host amazing events.
The Testbed events space: a recent event for Formula One team Mercedes.
Dryline: keeping New York safe from storms.
Graphic identity applied to a poster, book, invitation, record sleeve and vinyl for the UKTI
So what’s next? We have plans to open more offices around the world very soon, we're continuing to explore more brilliant ideas and collaborations with talented people, we're growing our digital and post production divisions and have a couple of other top secret ventures in the pipeline.
Last week we made our way back to District Hall for our third annual Spring in the Seaport networking event. In case you didn’t make it to last year’s event, the night is a chance for us to discuss architecture, real estate, technology, marketing and more. This year we had 49 attendees from the industry join us, including Elkus Manfredi, JLL, and Perkins+Will, for a Monopoly-themed event in a great collaborative space right in our neighborhood.
The event gave attendees a chance to preview our real-time app, which we’ll share at ICSC’s RECon in just a few days. The technology gives real estate marketers the opportunity to craft a personalized tour experience for potential buyers or tenants. The interactive, dynamic interface lets you “walk” through and explore a curated space. Through the power of real-time, Spring in the Seaport attendees walked through Union Station in Washington D.C., while testing out features like switching out different retail shops.
Check out the photos from the event below, and stay tuned for more on our work with real-time technology!
Since being named architect for the new National Medal of Honor Museum in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina this past October, Safdie Architects’ (in collaboration with Gallagher & Associates) have been designing a space for those who have served in defense of the U.S. and received the Medal of Honor – the nation’s highest military award. See Safdie’s design and our renderings featured on ArchDaily. You can look inside the building and see more of our renderings on Curbed. We’ve also worked with Moshe Safdie on his Sky Habitat project in Singapore. Learn how we’ve been inspired by Safdie’s design on our blog, where you can see our renderings and Sky Habitat film.
Development in Dallas’ Victory Park
Dallas’ Victory Park is seeing lots of new development springing up lately, from an apartment tower to a new movie theater. Yet the space left for development is dwindling. We created a film to show what the changes at Victory Park will actually look like in the coming months and how the Victory Park landscape fits into downtown Dallas. Impending changes to the neighborhood include 200,000 square feet of retail space, 1 million square feet of office space, some residential units and hotel and entertainment options. Check it out on The Dallas Morning News.
We recently completed a collaboration with artist Wolfgang Buttress to create a series of digital installations and integrated graphic applications for the UK pavilion at the Milan Expo, Italy, opening 1 May. The behaviour and living environment of bees, and the important role they play as part of the global ecosystem, are at the heart of this spectacular pavilion.
The overarching concept was to show swarms of bees with intricate details that come in to focus as visitors get closer. This process of discovery has been applied to every aspect of the visitor journey from the etched wooden and corten information points to the small intimate screens located around the orchard showing playful animations of bees.
Branding and graphic identity
At the early stage of the project we applied a graphic identity to a host of potential products; stationery, textiles, products, menus and digital applications. Although not all part of the brief or final deliverables, this process tested the robustness of the concept and its ability to provide a consistent experience as the design evolved. It also fed back into other aspects of the design, generating new ideas elsewhere.
Graphic identity applied to a poster, book, beer mats, invitation, record sleeve and vinyl.
Concept designs for interactive exhibits
At concept stage we explored the idea of using tiny glass flowers containing a speaker, small screen, a vibration device and a magnified preserved honey bee.
Concept design: interactive glass flowers.
Perspex frames containing information about bees and British industry are attached to a wooden information wall containing small nest cells which are lit up at night creating an illuminated swarm effect.
Concept: bee hive and perspex frames.
Bee information wall.
Bee information wall at night.
Squint/Opera CGI of the completed stairway in the accommodation block: honeycomb graphics were laser cut in to the corten.
An elevation of the accommodation block with signage and wayfinding.
Playful animations and intimate visuals
To minimise the impact on the natural beauty of the orchard the animations were displayed on small intimate screens viewed through perforations in the timber walls and corten cut outs.
A sketched storyboard showing a bee travelling through the pavilion.
The swarm animations help guide visitors through the pavilion.
Small screens mimick the pattern of a swarm.
The bone conduction device
Bees communicate through vibrations rather than sound and to mimic this, we designed a bespoke bone conduction device: the visitor places one end of a small stick into the device and bites down on the other. Interpolated recordings of the bees communicating are conducted through vibrations directly from the stick to the visitor’s inner ear.
Prototype bone conduction device.
Wolfgang Buttress /UK Pavilion artist and creative lead.
Stage One /Manufacture + Construction.
BDP /UK Pavilion architects, landscape architects and environmental engineers.
Dr. Martin Bencsik /Physicist and bee expert.
Tristan Simmonds (Simmonds Studio) / UK Pavilion structural engineers.
In an area known mostly for fashion, Neoscape is part of a wave of creative companies reinventing the Garment District. In fact, less than 45 percent of Garment District tenants are now part of the garment industry. More and more technology, advertising, media and information (TAMI) tenants are flocking to the area. Neoscape is part of this trend. In our search for an office we worked with Jamie Jacobs at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, who encouraged us to explore the transforming neighborhood for this very reason. As Jamie said, “In Boston, Neoscape was viewed as a trendsetter when they relocated to the new Innovation District. Similarly, in New York, they are now among a wave of pioneering creative companies reinventing a neighborhood known historically for its garment and manufacturing roots.” Jamie helped us find a new home for our NYC studio at 256 West 38th Street. We moved our operations and about 20 employees to 6,151 square feet of space on the entire 14th floor of the building.
Before the paint was dry in our new office space we began working with The Garment District Alliance, a non-profit organization and one of several business improvement districts in New York City, seeking to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of the neighborhood. We were commissioned to work on a series of films to promote the changes happening in the Garment District and shed some light on why this is such a great place to “live, work and play.” Not only will these films serve to help rebrand the Garment District, but brokers will also be able to use these films to show potential tenants what it’s like to be a creative company in the Garment District and how the area is transforming.
As Barbara Blair Randall, president of the Garment District Alliance, said, “There is so much exciting change taking place in the Garment District right now. When we learned that Neoscape was moving to the area and we took a look at their creative services, we knew we wanted to work together to show people what is really going on and how TAMI tenants are enlivening the area. We cannot wait to show people what it means to be a creative tenant in the Garment District, highlighting all the amenities in the neighborhood and opportunities for growth.” The first film will debut at a broker event later this spring.
We are already witnessing growth in the area as a diverse mix of tenants from different industries move in. “Moving to a neighborhood where you feel like the new kid helps further push Neoscape’s creative process to better serve our clients,” said Ryan Cohen, principal at Neoscape. “We couldn’t be more pleased with how the space turned out and our new neighborhood.”
We will be taking advantage of all that the Garment District has to offer as we celebrate more exciting news at Neoscape, including the launch of our rebrand and the company’s 20th anniversary.