Final Project: Warm-up the New Normal



Many of us had difficulties adjusting to the new normal as we found ourselves suddenly held to a whole slew of restrictions. Safe-distancing measures place crosses between us, discourage us from talking to each other and gathering in large groups. They challenge our ideas of proximity and relationships altogether and seem to make society a lot more colder.

This installation hopes to help users warm up to the new normal and its visual lexicon of tapes and crosses, by offering a new means of connecting and feeling each other in spaces simultaneously shared and divided. The super conductive ADM uncommon table aims to help users remember the feeling of warmth transmitted by the touch of another human’s hand, even while practising safe-distancing. Users are encouraged to make a no-contact heat pass to share their warmth with others across the table – all while keeping their hands to themselves.

If cold to touch, invite someone else to share the space and warm up with. Just don’t feel too lonely when touch becomes cold again.



(Photos and videos here)


Early Idea –

I started with the idea of visualising body heat and mapping out its shared field and paths between 2 people in space, reflecting on these questions:

  1. How can we feel each other in a shared space while apart?
  2. How can feeling each other encourage us to not only acknowledge but interact with each other?
  3. How do we mark personal territories & occupy spaces as our own?
  4. How do we navigate sharing these spaces with others?

Iteration I –
LDR (sensor measuring light)
Heating pads + MOFSET semiconductor for temp control
LED strips 
5V power supply

LDR code with threshold value
Heating pad + MOFSET code
LED code for fade + intensity changes


  • If user 1 activates button, user 2 heating pad heats up, LED lights up
  • If both users activate button, both users have heating pads and LED lights activated
  • If no users activate buttons, both heating pads cool, no LED lights
  • The longer the duration of contact/stay, the hotter the heating pads (sufficient to achieve via normal heat conducting mechanisms without need to manipulate software code)

I had to experiment a bit and do some calculations to decide what power supply to use for my circuit as I needed to connect 2 heating pads, 2 LED strips and an arduino to the same supply, while meeting their different power ratings and voltage needs. I tried: Li-Po batteries, cell batteries, open bank, DC adaptors of different capacities. As I am relatively inexperienced with electronics, learning all the hardware and circuitry was slightly challenging but a good learning experience from this project.

Iteration II –
LDR (sensor measuring light)-> DIY soft button (measure electric contact)
LDR readings unreliable for input due to close position with LED lights in set-up

LED code runs to pulse continuously at different light intensities for 1/2-person interaction

After consultation, I decided that I would adjust my interaction to focus on lights only to convey the idea of heat visually and play with the intensity and the way they pulsed when 0/1/2 people activated the buttons.  I wanted to remove heat entirely because I felt that the adafruit heating pad I tested generated an underwhelming max temp of heat that might let down users’ expectations.

FINAL Iteration –
Adafruit heating pad -> Stripped commercial heating pads
Technical experiments for INPUT: ways of combining resistors to improve contact and sensitivity of sensors

Normal ButtonPIN code for DIY soft button ->
Using Capacitive Touch Arduino library to improve sensitivity
Subtle differences to LED code to make 2-people interaction activate brighter lights than 1-person only

Cover for heating pad button: black/red/metallic
> Black was most suited to contrast the states of the table activated with and without light
> Black blended well with the table so users focused on feeling the heat VS visuals
> Metallic sheen had conductive associations but was distracting to view, took away from heat feeling focus
> Red suggested heat all the time VS cool surface

Black cloth/felt VS foam VS cellophane paper 
> Cellophane paper worked best to gain/lose heat from the heating pad under and blended with the table set-up
> Cloth and felt were too tactile and captured heat too (lost heat more poorly)

I switched out the adafruit heating pad with heating pads stripped from a commercial product. The maximum temperature reached by these heating pads were still not impressive but their rate of heating and cooling was much higher so the presence/absence of a second person activating the heating pad could be felt more instantaneously. I decided that I would stick to the objective of making heat the main output of my interaction.

My original concern was that the low temperature of the heating pads were defeating to include if they fell short of people’s expectations in their temperature. However while testing the set-up, I realised that the expectation of the pads heating up, combined with the subtlety of the heat generated, actually produced a yearning to feel the “heat from the other person” instead, where I pressed down harder on the pad and focused more on feeling for the heat. The warmth generated is also comforting to the touch and of an appropriate temperature to suggest the warmth of hands. I felt this was more aligned with the concept of my work, versus my first idea to amplify the sensation of heat generated beyond body temperature (boiling) as the heating pads were activated for a longer time. In that iteration, I am creating a new sensation and unfamiliar mode of communication between people via heat, whereas here I am trying to recreate and remind users of the sensation of sharing bodily warmth – that might be forgotten with safe-distancing measures being enforced, limiting physical contact and extending distance between people. I think the subtlety of the heat works well in heightening the user’s sensitivity to feeling – to warmth and also the presence of others in the same space. The yearning to feel the heat output suggestively closes the distance between the interacting users, as they establish “contact” through the heat “conducted” by the table.

Further Improvements –

Given more time, I would have liked to experiment more with the code to make the heating pads pulse a cool white light while no users activated the buttons, and incorporate better fading transitions for the LED lights when activated and switching between intensities. This time however, I have focused on making the simplest code work together with the hardware circuit, and on presentation of the installation to guide the interaction.


Assignment 1: Body-Powered Seat Warmer WIP



The installation explores other ways we might feel each other in a shared space (presence), that might have greater effect in compelling us to engage with each other – where merely seeing and/or hearing each other can still fall short. While physically apart, can we also feel each other?

The table invites two people to sit across each other diagonally, following  safe-distancing directions. It suggests to users that they may share their body heat with each other by warming the seats directly beside the other user, simulating a scenario where they are seated next to each other instead of across. The body-powered seat warmer mechanism that enables this is undisguised and visible for understanding; all decisions by users to share their own body heat or experience the other person’s induced body heat are therefore conscious and expressions of a desire to actively engage with the other person sharing the space. The unsophisticated lever mechanism requires users to perform work with their bodies in order to “conduct/convert heat energy” for the other user seated on the opposite side.

In reality, there is no situation where people can feel the heat from each other’s bodies without:

  • being in close proximity to each other at the same time (a distance too close for the comfort of strangers), or
  • occupying the same space successively (such as when you sit on a seat warmed by another person who left only shortly before you came).

The installation tries to set-up a scenario that allows two people to induce and feel each other’s body heat while occupying different positions in the same  space, at the same time.

OPEN QUESTION – Does the invitation to share/feel the body heat of another person invite or put off people from sharing a space?


Project Dimensions: 1.5 x 1.5m

Each bench has a seating spot (user A) and heating spot (user B effect, activated contact between heating pad and metal bench underside).

Knowing how the mechanism works might prompt some people to place objects on the opposite side of the bench to test the experience while occupying the space alone. Nonetheless, that action is an act of inducing/ simulating the presence of another person in the space, drawing attention to the user’s solitary state at the table and inviting the body of another to replace the substitute dummy object. 

In a scenario where the mechanism is concealed and users have no knowledge that “their body heat” will be “conducted” across the benches to be felt by the opposite user, they might be less conscious and keen in sensing any subtle changes in temperature on the bench. 

Consultation review:

In my original mechanism where the heated spot (effect by user A) is positioned directly under user B, it is difficult to determine if the heat felt under each user is caused by their own body heat or the other user’s; the heat output cannot be meaningfully traced to the physical presence of another (objective). 

Whereas in this mechanism where the heated spot is instead beside user B’s seat, more of the user’s attention is drawn to the induced presence (or absence) in the seat beside him/her – where in normal scenarios without social distancing, it would be possible for another person (stranger or acquaintance) to physically occupy this space.

The absence of a physical person in the seat beside, together with the expectation of this seat being warmed when the table is shared by two persons, further creates a pulling force for each user to reach out to the hot spot induced by the other with their hand, or physically inch closer or sit atop of it even (this would be an active choice to engage with the other person and “share” his/her body heat). 

  • Wooden planks x3
  • Chopsticks
  • Foam/hard board
  • Raffia string
  • Heating pad/ hot water bag x2
  • Black paint
  • Exploration of different heat pack materials for longer lifespan/ quicker transmission/ larger area of heat transfer


MATERIAL: Aluminum ziplock bag + hot water
TIMING/RADIUS: 2min/5cm,  no further area increase
MATERIAL: Rubber hot water bag 
TIMING/RADIUS: 2min/5cm, no further area increase
NOTES: To test amount of water's effect on retaining heat*
MATERIAL: Heating pad
MATERIAL: DIY microwave rice sock bag 
LIFESPAN: 20-30min
(one-time use)
(12 hours, one-time use)
(reusable, max 54 degrees)
(hot water bag $6, pickup)
  • Exploration of conductive materials to increase radius of heat transmission from heat pack, closer “felt reach” to sitter (can we increase the conductivity of the steel bench along its length?
WIP Findings
Aluminum foil: no significant improvement
  • Different ropes for durability, ability to support weight
WIP Findings
Normal twine: works well enough with wood
Fishing line
Final version sketch
prototype tests

Miniature model

Original idea: lever beam atop fulcrum

Test 1: seat end only of beam atop bench

Final idea: hang both ends of beam below fulcrum and bench (comfort for sitting and presentation)

  • To paint planks and ropes black
  • Heat objects and buttons in bright red/ metallic sheen (conductive associations)
  • Stickers with bad puns/instructions
  • WIP
Visual inspiration

Bidet Toilet Seat Attachment W/ Heated Seat and Hygienic Nozzles Daiwa Felicity Wash Mate Deluxe Elongated - -

Warm regards,

re: Relational Architectures by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Snippets of Lozano-Hemmer’s works can be viewed here! [12:35 and 13:16 for my personal favourite cuts from Body Movies (2011)]

Lozano-Hemmer’s works subject architecture to fluctuation and instability not only in the literal sense that facades are projected with fleeting moving images, but also within the unpredictability of visual outcomes and activities generated. His works invite spontaneous engagements with space and the unfolding of unpredictable social relations within. In doing so, they inject the city with an additional element of surprise, on top of setting up unexpected encounters of illuminated facades for urbanites.

“As Lozano-Hemmer rightfully cautions, there is no guarantee that a work will function in the same way everywhere.”

The same intervention generates a variety of responses and engagements from people at different sites, from different cultures, from different walks of life. Personally, it is this spontaneous and performative quality to his Relational Architectures series that I enjoy most. The playful ephemeral engagements from passersby are in stark contrast with the canvas of monumental architecture that they take place on – with the impression of rigidity and stasis. A city is full of movement and life, yet these moving images generated by spontaneous participants are able to shift the city in ways other “human activity” and ordinary traffic cannot. They are able to stop people in their tracks to look and engage more actively with a space, using their bodies. Lozano-Hemmer’s works invite human activity, or more specifically human embodiment, that is personalised; projections of actual shapes of man onto the city stand out from its flurry of light and white noise. 

As I was viewing his works, I reflected on how similar technologies could be used to incorporate greater participatory elements to the projection installations at different Singapore art festivals. I wrote in the Heritage Light Up reflections that I hoped the average Singaporean passerby could see him/herself or a personal contribution physically manifest on the facade of our national monuments. There is definitely appeal to being handed some control and power to manipulate something larger than yourself, in both personal and collective settings. 

HOME sketch: living room shapes

  • mapping self-proclaimed personal space territories of each person
  • little difficulty building walls around ourselves while occupying the same space (defining personal space in shared space)
  • limited interactions and incentives

  • forcing view of shared space: tangible lines / planes to define our vision
  • difficulty: acknowledging and reacting or accommodating to the presence of others sharing the same space
  • drawing tangible lines or planes extrapolated from the positions of our personal space to shift our vision to a shared space (heighten consciousness)

  • stress of “tunnel vision” and felt sense of “connection”, of constantly having to acknowledge presence of others – can we share the burden and negotiate our interactions in space together?
  • if using flexible ropes tied to our heads: tightest when we are at the maximum distance apart, easing when we are closer together (does it necessarily encourage interaction/ relational intimacy?)


In the same physical space, we see and hear each other but neither encourages us to engage with each other in a shared space. We don’t touch each other though, obviously since we are spaced apart. So perhaps allowing each other to physically feel and register each other’s presence while at a distance might prompt a new awareness or way of perceiving each other in space? 

What happens also when this form of connection is established between people who are not in each other’s vision and hearing field (in different rooms)? 

Would a rope tied to the heads of different people be space connectors or dividers; do they join or separate? 

Tension of rope X stretched elastic, morphing space

Shifting mats under our feet

Careful not to step on each other

re: Singapore Heritage Light Up

What is it that is being communicated?

I think the installations/event had a heavier emphasis on the message of solidarity than celebration.  I initially expected to be unimpressed, but the experience was surprisingly rather memorable as an edition of light display in Singapore that was particularly context-specific and responding to our present reality of living under a pandemic.  It was unlike any of the other typical displays saturated with fancy sound and moving animations.  It was still and powerful. To visit the installations with the expectation of it being sensational and exciting would be misguided. The atmosphere was instead a mixture of solemn, prideful and introspective reflection – and appropriately so.

This time, the grandeur and structural integrity of the monumental buildings were accentuated by the light displays rather than made secondary. In other instances, I have only ever paid so much attention to them as mere blank canvases for their animated skins, that can be rather random and remotely related to the show’s theme. Highlighting the structures of these monuments that define Singapore’s cityscape, by painting them in our bold national colours, is a simplistic but perhaps effective way of communicating our national identity and evoking solidarity. From my observation of the people around me who stopped to watch the still monuments, a simple display of light and colour can be a uniting force among family and friends and even between strangers. I personally felt an unspoken sense of connection with some of the families viewing the installations beside me.

A family stopped to watch the show (grandma pulled a chair too)

One of the many families visiting the light-up together

Comparing the feelings evoked from Switzerland’s projection of Singapore’s flag on its mountain made me realise that these feelings of solidarity and reflection with the nation that I felt could not have been evoked from the mere display of national colours, or their plastering on any other structure. (This would however be interesting to explore) The mood and messages of the installation were brought out by the site specificity of the selected buildings, all of which shared a certain quality of firmness. Notably, the experience of these cultural institutions were not transformed by lights alone but by the pandemic’s effects too – the stillness of the night and less than normal crowd flow and traffic contributed to my experience.

Singapore flag beamed on to the Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland
National Gallery Singapore
What might the “curators” have to consider to plan such a transformation?

Curators would have to consider:

1. Designing each skin to complement the structural integrity and specificity of each building. Since every building is given the same treatment of red and white lights, curators would have to create designs that were unique to each building to allow some visual interest and differences amongst the different sites.

Victoria Concert Hall
Asian Civilisations Museum

2. Selecting appropriate sites and using design interventions to connect them. It is noteworthy that the sites chosen for the light displays are in close proximity to each other and share similar architectural elements, on top of having cultural or monumental value. Projections were designed to facilitate way-finding between the sites, such as through visual rhythms of alternating red and white pillars on buildings themselves, or smaller lights illuminating smaller paths. Having a consistent style of the red and white skin also helped me spot the next site from afar and encourage searching of the landscape to continue my journey. Considering not only the site but the area around it is important, especially if the curator wishes to design a certain flow and continuity to the  experience.

Strong visual rhythms in projections
Way-finding lights at Old Parliament / Art House

3. Designing interventions that would complement but also stand out from the surroundings. The buildings are situated in the heart of the city flooded with lights. If it were not for the distinct red and white lights, the buildings would have blended in and competed with the flood of lights surrounding it (blue, white, yellow, pink etc.) Way-finding would have been compromised too.

What alternate ways could YOU imagine transforming these sites to communicate something unique or unknown about Singapore culture?

(Putting aside the context of the pandemic) It would be interesting if the public could be invited to decide this themselves and project what they think to be unique or unique to Singapore culture onto these sites. Many projection mapping works already explore enabling greater participation of the average Joe on the street.

For an analogue intervention, one of the things unique to Singapore culture and arts and cultural institutions in particular that came to mind was our (relatively unpoliced) vandalism with visitor stickers (e.g. I AM MADE FOR SAM / NGS / NMS stickers). These stickers can be found plastered over structures like street lamps in the proximity of their galleries/museums. Combining this imagery with that of (illegal) bubble gum on our roads, I think it would be interesting to invite the public to “Kusama-fy” the floors/steps of these cultural institutions with their visitor stickers. (unlikely but just for fun)


Intervention for 2 persons with true vision

What senses you are manipulating and how does this change your sense of emotion or feeling in space?

When we think of manipulating sight we usually think of the extreme and taking sight away completely. Yet for many of us, the intermediate steps of blurr y vision are lived realities that our youth and corrective lenses help us forget. While blurry vision may not evoke the same sense of panic and disorientation while blind, they still bring intense discomfort and frustration especially for long periods of time. We take (clear) vision for granted. 

The mapped circle around two myopic people is smaller than that of two with “perfect vision”. While physical proximity does not translate to relational intimacy, I’d like to think that people are closer together when they occupy a shared field of their true vision; they are further sensitised to the differences in their eyesight and the need to communicate and accommodate each other to remain in each other’s field of vision.

The person with better eyesight has the benefit of greater comfort and security in the space drawn about the pair. As this person, I felt a sense of responsibility towards Yi Xue, and some discomfort in knowing we were unequal in this circle meant to enclose our shared field of vision. 

To share/make a space with another, awareness of the differences between two people is required – and by extension, accommodation from at least one of them. Dejan also raised a point about honesty being needed for the circle to be drawn true to its intention; mutual trust is also necessary. It was suggested that eyesight test cards could be used to verify positions of the two people at a certain distance to map more accurate distances, but even this in hindsight requires trust from both parties to respond honestly to the test cards.

re: The Poetics of Space – Nests, Gaston Bachelard

I found it interesting that the last line of the chapter presents space as the one changing with – or adapting to man, rather than the inverse:

“Mankind’s nest, like his world, is never finished. And imagination helps us to continue it.”

The popular conception of space as a larger static environment unresponsive to its occupants needs and interactions within it has lost its relevance. Design trends in modular furniture and dynamic, shifting environments capture this shift in our understanding of space.  

Normally we think of humans and living things being the ones to adapt to spaces, changing themselves to fit spaces. We are after all the smaller beings with adaptive capabilities, within larger “inanimate” spaces. However the reading foregrounds the inverse, exploring how spaces are the ones moulded instead to fit humans. Even in scenarios where a space is not intentionally designed to suit a particular person, he or she can still “own” the space and make its existing reality fit him or herself. It is an illusion that we have little influence on our surroundings as individuals, and even more so as a collective.

The chapter made me reflect on the concept of ergonomics and what it means to “possess” or “make” a space one’s own. I am reminded of concepts of place-making whereby the distinction between a space and a place lies in the people and memories engaged with them. While perhaps not moulding space directly with our bodies like birds, the body is still man’s primary tool for shaping space. Carrying forward the idea from Tuan’s essay on body relations and spatial values, our sensory engagements with space through our bodies define how we perceive and relate to space. We shape spaces through our personal encounters and lived experiences within them. One section of this chapter describes memories that “make” a space for a person through sensorial experiences: 

“It is as when a family, your neighbors, return to an empty house after a long absence, and you hear the cheerful hum of voices and the laughter of children, and see the smoke from the kitchen fire. The doors are thrown open, and children go screaming through the hall. So the flicker dashes through the aisles of the grove, throws up a window here and cackles out it, and then there, airing the house. It makes its voice ring up-stairs and down- stairs, and so, as it were, fits it for its habitation and ours, and takes possession.”

Our lived experiences in a space arguably have a greater effect in “moulding” it than its physical structure imposes limitations. Anything can become a nest (or home/place):

“A tree becomes a nest the moment a great dreamer hides in it.” 

The essay also presents the skill of building nests and making it fit their bodies as innate to birds by nature. This made me wonder if the same applied to humans and the extent to which human needs addressed in the formal study of ergonomics are likewise intuitive for us – how much of the conditions for making a space suit or fit man are about meeting primal needs? How much is derived instead from social constructs like our evolved definitions of well-being and quality of life? What in-built knowledge do we have on making spaces fit us?

re: Body, Personal Relations and Spatial Values

The essay explores space as a humanly construed concept, beyond the conventional understanding of space as a mere physical atmosphere or environment. It takes an anthropocentric view in explaining how people organise space differently – and similarly – with respect to their own living bodies. I appreciated how the essay drew a web of connections between different bodies (biological, cultural, social) and relations (people-people, people-space, people-time etc.) based on space. 

One thing that stood out for me was the primacy of vision in defining the living body’s experience of space and the spatial schema imposed on it by extension. To perceive and measure space in terms of height and proximity relations etc., sight plays a crucial role. It would be interesting however to explore how the schema and vocabularies of spatial organisation might be different, if man relied on non-visual stimuli and experiences from engaging other senses instead. If we could not see, how would we divide, measure and assign value to space through only hearing, smelling and/or feeling the world? If we closed our eyes and were completely still (but awake, upright and conscious), and relied predominantly on our sense of hearing to engage with space, would right and left be primary, and front and back secondary instead? Since our ears are designed at the sides of our heads, the degree of sound stimuli from circumambient space would vary most along that axis. Might we also move along a horizontal axis, led by hearing instead – side-stepping like crabs in space instead of walking forward and backward “normally”? Proximity relations might be informed by ambient sounds too, instead of distance and scale relations observed visually. While touch (and movement of our body to do this) might still allow us to identify the polarities and centres of a space without sight, how significant would these divisions be in influencing how we assign value to parts of a space? Where we still identify the centre and polarities of space based on touch alone, perhaps it is the ends of a space rather than its harder-to-pinpoint centre that gain greater importance for the sense of security and structure it offers a blind person. The position a blind person might value most might not be the centre of the world then but its ends. 

Space differs among different people because they measure and organise it with different bodies. But focusing on the living body as a “measuring tool” for space, space can also differ for the individual, if we augment the way we use our bodies to measure space.