Riley Hooker creates inflatable seating informed by "slime mold" for collective gathering

Inflatable yellow sculpture

During this year’s NYCxDesign festival, local designer Riley Hooker has created a modular and twisting inflatable seating system informed by “slime mold” meant to acts as a gathering place in times of “crisis”.

Fabricated by Rhode Island design studio Pneuhouse and created in collaboration with designer Nick Meehan, SIT(UATION) was installed in Creative Time HQ (CTHQ), a “gathering space for art and politics” in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Yellow inflatable seating in room
Designer Riley Hooker has installed an inflatable seating system in the loft of New York’s Creative Time arts organization

The inflatable “social sculpture” is composed of several, large worm-like volumes, including a twisted section, that can be moved and rearranged to create various seating arrangements.

“Collective authorship, collaboration and cooperation are all really important aspects of this work for me,” Hooker told Dezeen. “In particular, forming collective bodies as a response to crisis.”

Yellow inflatable with cushions in room
The modular seating is intended to create a collective space for reading and gathering

They are interconnected via zipper, meaning the system is modular and can be reorganized into different forms and adjusted to its setting – it formed an archway when installed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Richmond, Virginia.

Textural, cylindrical pillows top the length of some sections. Floor and back cushions were placed in the curved sections, and these seats were covered in animal and floral prints, in part top provide stimulation for neurodivergent learners and listeners.

Yellow inflatables in room
It was informed by a “slime mold”, which bonds together in times of crisis

SIT(UATION) draws from several references, including radical architecture movements of the 1960s and 70s, alternative education and mutual aid practices and the seating of designer Peter Opsvik.

Its main influence is the behaviour and bright yellow colour of the “slime mold” physarum polycephalum, a single-cell organism that bonds together under threat.

Inflatable bench used for protests

Read:

Pneuhaus converts inflatable outdoor seating for use in protests

“In times of crisis [slime molds] aggregate and form collective bodies, as a response to food shortage, that are capable of very sophisticated engineering, logistics, and spatial memory – despite having no brain,” Hooker told Dezeen.

“This behaviour is the core metaphor behind SIT(UATION), a place to commune with others, and collectively seek out narratives that are in short supply,” he said.

Curly Q inflatables
The various pieces can be rearranged to adjust to the surrounding environment

The seating was placed on a purple shag rug, with additional pillows lining benches surrounding the inflatables.

Hooker worked with Meehan to create the forms based on a previous project the pair conceived in 2020. After iterating the design in more traditional materials, they were introduced to the idea of making the project with inflatables, which “opened up new opportunities” in realising its construction.

Texture and patterned pillows
Tactile materials were distributed throughout and along the seating system

Installed in CTHQ from 7 to 23 May, readings and performances by artists including FT and Courtney Smith were hosted in the space.

Other installations taking place during the city’s NYCxDesign weeks includes a show by local design bookshop Head Hi featuring a variety of lamps and “eccentric” furniture made by a group majority women, trans and non-binary designers, exhibited in Brooklyn.

Riley Hooker is a New York-based designer who works across multiple mediums including graphic design, independent publishing, art and architecture, with previous work including posters in a “fairgrounds” exhibition centred around decolonization lead by New Red Order.

The photography is by Mario Miron.

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