Responses by Lizzy Sonenfeld, principal/creative director, Two Things
Background: Asset management company Brookfield approached Two Things to reimagine the holiday experience—to design a new physical installation and find new ways to innovate the overall consumer experience. We looked at the modern shopping center as a public space, and modernized a tradition that has become antiquated and exclusive. Most holiday experiences are limited and paid, so we flipped that dynamic to make it interactive and free to all. We leaned away from Christmas and Santa-focused experience, and into an experience that would be a gift to the community.
Reasoning: The Wishing Forest is centered on giving and receiving, and each aspect of the experience reflects this. The Wishing Tree is a gift to the community, but there is a surprise for those who go inside: the Holiday Bells build and grow as visitors play; the Whispering Wishes hinge on sharing wishes and give the forest life; and all the proceeds from the Giving Grove—a collection of coin-op games—go to local charities. Our hope is that families engage in the experience together, and find joy in play and connection.
Challenges: Creating an experience that could be scaled. We created one experience across two unique locations: Natick Mall and SoNo Collection. Testing in these two spaces that represent opposite ends of the spectrum was difficult; architecturally, each space had unique limitations in structural support and footprints. Ultimately, the challenges of these contrasting spaces helped build a better picture, as we will roll the concept out to additional locations in 2020.
Favorite details: The integration of sound and lighting design was executed beautifully. But we were considering all these details from the conceptual phase—the timing and quality of sound and music, the build in volume and lighting, the right moments were for peaks and dips in the show. We brought Red Paper Heart on as production partner, particularly for their ability to bring this experience to life in a magical, not heavy-handed tech way.
Visual influences: The Wishing Forest pulled a lot of inspiration from mid-century design. Simple, graphic shapes are inspired by the cutout aesthetic of Herbert Matter and Noguchi’s mobiles. We approached most of the interactive design through the lens of play—with the idea that engaging in play can create peace and escape, and encourages human and emotional connection. We balanced the overall design with a sophisticated color and material palette, and a contemporary slant to a holiday vibe.
Specific demands: While the installations were up for about a month, they will be used for up to ten years. This is demanding both in the modularity of the physical build, but also in the need to refresh the tech. Differences in footprint and structural support from mall to mall required a period of structural studies, and ultimately drove us to conical tree forms that can nest in storage and self-support from the ground up.