A Foosball Table Fuses Art, Sport, and 3D Printing in Hong Kong

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An extraordinary piece of interactive 3D printed art has emerged in Hong Kong. Titled Harbour Cup, this installation is not just a piece of art; it is a fusion of sports, science, and social interaction. Created by the innovative artist collective LAAB for the Science in Art exhibition along the Central Harbourfront promenade, Harbour Cup redefines the traditional concept of table soccer.

A New Take on an Old Game

Harbour Cup is similar to the foosball game we all know and love, but with a twist that challenges our perceptions. Unlike the usual game, this installation has no goals and no predefined teams. Instead, players must negotiate and decide how they want to play, whether competitively or collaboratively. This setup transforms the familiar game and its ingrained competitive nature into a space for communication and negotiation. By making the familiar unfamiliar, LAAB wants participants to rethink the essence of both play and interaction.

One of the standout features of Harbour Cup is its use of technology. The artwork has solar-powered LED lights that light up the ball’s path when it’s kicked, creating a fascinating visual effect, especially at night. These lights are activated by sensors inside waterproof 3D printed units, making sure everything works well even if it gets wet. In addition, the shiny metallic body of the Harbour Cup reflects the colorful lights from the surrounding buildings, blending the artwork with the unique landscape of Hong Kong.

LAAB’s Harbour Cup lights up. Image courtesy of LAAB Architects.

Inclusive and Engaging

Designed with inclusivity in mind, Harbour Cup consists of three pieces with different heights and dimensions. This ensures that people of all ages and body sizes can play with this interactive artwork, and no one will be left out. As the LAAB team explains, this clever design “encourages everyone to put down their phones and engage in physical and social play.”

The heart and soul of this piece is to bring back a sense of community and shared experience, something that many think has been lost over the past decade. Research shows that while people still want to share experiences, the fun and connection from these relations have decreased. This is partly because social media connects us but often lacks the deep emotional joy of face-to-face interactions.

LAAB’s Harbour Cup foosball table in Hong Kong. Image courtesy of LAAB Architects.

A 2023 US Surgeon General’s report explains that social media can “harm youth mental health by contributing to anxiety, depression, and feelings of inadequacy” and recommends “balancing online activities with real-life interactions” to encourage better mental well-being and social connections. Similarly, in Hong Kong, studies show that while many young people are still motivated to seek out shared experiences, the satisfaction and connection they get from these interactions have decreased over time, mainly due to the overuse of digital activities.

Overall, there has been a clear decline in the enjoyment and engagement of community activities of both youths and adults. The team at LAAB Architects seems to be setting out to change this by attracting people to the convergence of art and sports. Harbour Cup wants to revive key parts of daily life by encouraging people to play together and engage with each other in person, which, in turn, helps build a stronger sense of community and helps people feel more connected and happy, one step at a time.

LAAB is renowned for its innovative approach to art and architecture. Co-led by Otto Ng and Yip Chun Hang, LAAB is a multidisciplinary collective of artists, architects, designers, engineers, and sociologists. Their work blends cutting-edge digital technology and traditional craftsmanship to create inventive spatial experiences that connect people with nature, community, and culture. LAAB’s projects often challenge conventional boundaries, pushing the limits of what art and architecture can be or are supposed to be.

In its essence, Harbour Cup is not just a game; it is a social experiment. By removing the conventional elements of foosball, LAAB has created a situation that invites players to reflect on themselves, their interactions with others, and the nature of the game itself.

LAAB’s Harbour Cup foosball table in Hong Kong. Image courtesy of LAAB Architects.

Art in an Urban Landscape

Located at Tamar Park in Admiralty, Harbour Cup is part of a broader initiative to blend art into an urban setting. This thought-provoking installation challenges any perceptions of play and art. By incorporating this piece into public spaces, the team shows the importance of integrating art into our daily lives.

Looking ahead, LAAB continues to push the boundaries of art and architecture, exploring new ways to connect people with their environments through thoughtful and innovative design. Their work inspires artists, architects, and urban planners around the world, showing that this outside-the-box thinking can impact cities and communities.

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