Client: Helsinki Design Week
Location: Keskuskatu, Helsinki
Status: Completed 2018
Fabricators: Paja & Bureau
Partners: Arabia Elementary School
Sponsors: Tikkurilla, PEFC


“Chatroulette (IRL)” is a collaboration between design studio NEON and Arabia school’s 4th year students as part of Helsinki Design Week. Together they explored the festival’s theme of Trust with the design emerging based on the pupils research and suggestions. The installation was on display from the 6th of September until the 16th of September 2018.


The increasing concern about safety in the public realm means that it might be hard to trust strangers we encounter. We feel that design can be used to create situations where people can start conversations and empathise with others.

The name of “Chatroulette (IRL)” is inspired by the online chat website Chatroulette that pairs random users for web-cam based conversations. During the conversation, either user may leave by initiating another random connection. The aim of the installation, like the original Chatroulette, is to encourage communication between strangers.

The installation is composed of a series of shell like structures, each of which can be occupied by one or many users. All of the shells are interconnected with a network of viewing tubes. Once inside, the user can rotate a section with a circular window that allows a view into the tubes. When two shell users are looking down the same tube, the users can see each other and may interact. This continues until one use decides to rotate the inside again.

Through this simple activity, the artwork creates countless new interactions between strangers that otherwise would not have taken place. These interactions will create a new sense of trust between the participants.

Technical description

The shells of the installation were fabricated using CNC cut 18mm ply clad in thin 1.5mm plywood. The graphic painted stripes were applied by hand off-site and are designed to emulate the appearance of shells. The metal structure was fabricated using a combination of rolled steel sheet and standard circular hollow sections. The slight slope of the site was accommodated using adjustable feet. The installation is made of PEFC certified wood which originates from sustainably managed forests.