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A new Law unto himself

Christopher Sell talks to James Law, chairman and chief, Cybertect, about the concept of cybertecture and why it will make Omniyat's The Pad so unique.

All new: James Law believes a home should be more technologically attuned to the individual.
All new: James Law believes a home should be more technologically attuned to the individual.

Christopher Sell talks to James Law, chairman and chief, Cybertect, about the concept of cybertecture and why it will make Omniyat's The Pad so unique.

What exactly is cybertecture?

It is what I believe to be a new form of architecture for the 21st century, where we don't just deal with glass, steel and concrete. We also deal with all the technologically powered issues such as communications, interactivity and multimedia, so we can really design and create our world to its maximum potential; not just enveloped by physical space but also a virtual space as well.

What was the genesis for the idea?

Since I was very young I have always been interested in technology - I built my first computer when I was nine. When I started working as an architect I was quite frustrated that the palette we were working with was really very staid and too stable. It was just a repeat of the same iconic things again and again. And I was very interested in how technology was bringing to people new kinds of lifestyle.

Even if people were living in a tiny home, but they had a great internet connection, it meant they were linked to the world. And that was a way in which I thought architecture could move on; designing the world in a much broader way. And so I abandoned architecture and said to myself I will no longer be an architect, I will be a cybertect. My team and I are constantly developing projects not just on a physical level but on a technological level, so that when you experience a building as a piece of architecture on the outside, on the inside, there is all this cybertecture that will help you live in a much happier way.

Architecture is quite an established, confined practice, to some extent, so when you were pushing this new ideology, did people warm to it?

Not initially, and it was quite a task to make people understand. But one of the great things about this direction is that it is not James Law who is pushing the envelope; ultimately, the world is changing.

Every young person who is playing on his Nintendo or Xbox and every person who is learning to go online and create a website is really part of this new wave of understanding that modern life is no longer about staying in a room and photocopying and writing a document - it's about sharing and collaborating through technology, from your space to other spaces around the world. So I think it is the dawn of a new understanding of what technology is.

Which brings us to The Pad in Business Bay - what exactly is so unique and significant about this?

The Pad as a building was conceived as a programmable container of lifestyle. And each of the apartments is a device that you live inside that helps you deal with various aspects of your life including your health, communications, even your entertainment.

We have created a techn-ology called Cybertecture Health where, when you walk into your bathroom, the floor has sensors that detect your weight, height, body-mass index etc, and this is tracked through The Pad and collected for you so you can see how you are doing.

With communications, The Pad automatically detects you are home and all of the communications - be it email, voice mail or SMS - are channelled through The Pad, so, when you get an email, your apartment changes colour to alert you. So your home is an extension of your computer, your PDA or your mobile phone. It is done in a very ambient way.

We will also be streaming over 100 real-time locations from around the world to superimpose on top of your view looking out of the window. So you can, by voice selection, view Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai for example, so you are not binded to the physical space.

Did you target Dubai specifically or did you have this building in mind already and the opportunity arose?

A bit of both. I was invited by Omniyat Properties to come to Dubai. They invited three architects: Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid and myself to design three buildings which would be symbolic of the future. They posed this challenge to me, and I thought Dubai really has a unique position to have the world's first of this kind of thing.

What has been the reaction from Dubai?

The reaction has been amazing. I think The Pad is symbolic of a new generation of buyers who are looking to invest and live in a place that is totally different to what is being offered in the marketplace.

Surprisingly, that group of people is not just restricted to young people but also mature people who want to be part of the internet revolution and new attitude to life.

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