Interview: In DIALOGUE // Adi Biran & Lihi Gerstner


Over the last few months we've been in conversation about how we go about creating an intentional environment for each of our Dialogues. Transforming a space into a place and the impact it has on the individuals taking part.

This month, we continue our series of interviews with fascinating people we've had the pleasure of meeting -- some are past guests of DIALOGUE, others are currently shaping culture with their work. Whether it's Design, Entrepreneurship, Art, Science, or the like -- each has a point of view on human connection. 

We begin, with two women, architects and founders of Splacer, a company that has set out to revolutionize the way we look at urban innovation through technology.



Adi Biran & Lihi Gerstner

On Space, Place & Urban Innovation


Adi Biran & Lihi Gerstner

Adi Biran & Lihi Gerstner

When we chatted last, you mentioned that you see a difference between the concept of ‘space’ & ‘place’? Can you talk a bit more about what ‘place’ means to you both?

Adi: The name that we chose for our company, Splacer, is the combination of space and place. Space can have many uses - dancing, eating, learning, exhibiting -- yet it depends on the activity and how the space is used that makes it a ‘place’ -- a dance hall, a restaurant, a class, a gallery.

In the history of zoning and Urbanism, spaces were designated in advance based on a strict definition of what will take place within them -- places where people work, sleep, live, and entertain. We advocate that there is a greater mixture of activities that can take place. Even if a space is a living space, once it’s not inhabited by those living there, it can be used for something completely different.

Lihi: Bernard Tschumi who was our Dean at Columbia School of Architecture, advocated that there is no architecture without events, without actions or activity. Architecture is not defined by its “formal” container, but rather by its combinations of spaces, movements, and events.

At DIALOGUE, we create the opportunity for shifts / ideas to take shape. We do this in part by how we think about space/place and conceptually how that space ties back into the topic of conversation. How does connection change when a ‘place' is thoughtfully curated vs. when it’s just a space?

Lihi: I think connections are happening everywhere, and not necessarily in a curated space. However, the space can definitely contribute a lot of what is thoughtfully worked out with the activity that it is being picked for. A meeting can be more productive once chosen to be held in the “right” space. A party can be wonderfully conducted if held in a creative space that is meant to evoke a particular feeling in its’ guests.

We believe that the place that one is in, plays a significant role in the discussion and outcome. There is power in the surroundings to make you feel things or have a certain type of experience.
— Adi Biran

Are there specific ways in which you see the influence of space on humans and human connection?

Adi: When we first started building our company, people asked us what we know about technology and coding. Our answer has always been -- "we can hire out the knowledge of coding, and the knowledge of tech, but what we really know a lot about is desire" -- we try to drive our approach around space and place through the lens that we know. In many ways, it allows us to really think differently about our product.

Are there ways that you hope users of Splacer begin to think differently about space after using the service?

Lihi: For us, it’s not just about booking a place. It’s really about trying to create a community of users and a collection of ideas. This approach and thinking has to do with how we envision the cities of the future. We often wonder -- what if the power of space can be flexible depending on its’ programmatic usage, depending on time, or need?

The future of architecture is one that will allow for greater flexibility. For example, today we take an existing space that is designed for a specific use and enforce other activities within in it, if and when it’s available. If architects understand the power of this option, they can design spaces that are all about shifting and changing for human needs.

You’ve had non-traditional paths to entrepreneurship, meeting in Architecture school in Tel Aviv, getting the idea for Splacer. Have your philosophies around ‘place’, changed or evolved as a result of this journey?

Adi: I always felt that we were entrepreneurs, we always had a vision and we built it. We never worked 9-5 or for others. Entrepreneurship is a character, where you have ideas and you want to make them happen in the world.

What happens in tech and advancing of technology is that we are given more tools. It’s always about tools and perfection and it’s true to every field. Whether it’s tech that allows for what Splacer is doing or 3D printing, which will change the way we know architecture; or whether it’s the technology that allows us analyze space, time, etc. The vision of what we want to achieve as architects remains the same, but we have a different set of tools that we now use and these tools are changing the way that we do things.

There are so many ways to analyze space, time, usage. IoT (Internet of Things), which talks about connectivity, is very much linked to architecture, urbanism and planning. It’s linked to objects in space and time. I really hope that these things will be part of the architectural academy / university and programming that students get to access.

Lihi: One of the living communities we explored as we were thinking about Splacer and our work as architects was the Kibbutz -- not from an agricultural standpoint, but rather from the urban kibbutz standpoint, which in many ways is looking at communal living in cities and exchange of ideas. I think places like WeLive will change the way we view architecture of cities in the future. In it’s formation, the idea of the Kibbutz was about political ideas, education, ideas about the world; however, when I look at WeLive it doesn't come from ideology but rather a need and an economical structure that allows benefits. It’s much less about ideas and much more about how good it will be for me as a person.

It goes back to our individual “desire”, which is a key component to success. We will see more of how design is influencing how people behave and perceive space.