Maker Monday: Noah Waxman of Cactus

Set to disrupt the architecture world and how people engage with environments, experiential design studio Cactus’ is behind some extremely innovative projects like: Mount Sinai’s futuristic Lab100 and Rise Nation’s hi-tech + hi-intensity climbing studios. The founders’ true mission is to connect digital technologies (think AI, etc.) with physical architecture — getting people to put down their phones and connect with physical space in a new way that is both engaging, hi-tech and ultimately more human, relational, and engaging. After pursuing degrees at Harvard and NYU, leader Noah Waxman co-founded Cactus, where he steers a team that integrated digital technology into design. From designing the full brand and store experience of radical new cosmetic dermatology brand Ever/body to interactive installations in group fitness classes and San Juan’s hottest nightclub: Fifty Eight, Cactus is always heading what’s new and next. In a rapidly changing cultural shift from analog to digital, Waxman is at the forefront of a new age in interiors. Meet Waxman in this week’s Maker Monday, and take a look at some of their groundbreaking work below.

An underused lounge in Puerto Rico was given new life with Cactus’s “Cubic Sky.”

Andrew Joseph: What’s your wakeup ritual?
Noah Waxman: Refusing to get out of bed until one of my kids drags me out.

Andrew: How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Noah: Routinely leaving my phone on silent and nowhere near me during nights and weekends.

Andrew: Dream country to work in? Or dream project to take on?
Noah: Cactus is my dream project! I feel so lucky to have found business partners and a team that have allowed me to design and actually manifest the spaces and things of our collective imagination. Next, I want Cactus to branch into products. Furniture, lighting, interactive objects and spaces as products.

Andrew: What’s your biggest fear in life?
Noah: Boredom (…and sharks).

Andrew: Favorite app?
Noah: Pretty obsessed with CityMapper these days. Not only does it tell you all your options for getting from point a to point b it tells you which train car to stand in and which exit to use for minimum time spent in subway crush. It also works in cities all over the world!

Andrew: Most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life?
Noah: Anaconda hunting (catch and release!) on foot in the Bolivian Pampas. We caught a huge one that took three of us to lift before releasing it.

Andrew: Favorite bad movie?
Noah: Crocodile Dundee. “That’s not a knife. This is a knife.”

Andrew: What might the design world look like in 10 years?
Noah: We believe that the silos in the design world are and will continue to fall. There is no reason that a creative person with skills designing one type of thing shouldn’t be designing other types of things. Fashion designers have really cool ideas that can apply to buildings. Architects have really cool pieces of knowledge that play so well into lighting design and lighting designers should be embedding their lights into more than just fixtures!

The Immersive “Museum of Me” in Brazil uses guests’ social media posts as part of the constantly-evolving space.

Andrew: Must-have clothing item everyone should have?
Noah: A good leather jacket. High-quality leather is so sumptuous to touch, smells so nice and looks better and better the more you wear it.

Andrew: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Noah: Cactus’ work relies on novel use and treatment of inputs and outputs to create interaction. The coming wave of embeddable sensors (“IoT” as it is often described) presents incredible opportunities for innovative and compelling input. I look forward to rooms that can truly understand their inhabitants and react to them.

Andrew: Best advice you’d give your teenage self?
Noah: When you have an idea that you think is a good one chase it with all your energy and move fast. Get to an “MVP” quickly so that you can prove to yourself that it is (or, more likely, is not) as good as you thought it was. Don’t let it linger.

Andrew: Best way to take a rest/decompress?
Noah: Get out of town. Leave the devices turned off. Natural environments have a powerful relaxing effect on me.

Andrew: Favorite place to view art?
Noah: I love the east wing of the National Gallery in DC. Such a phenomenal use of shapes and light to create a sense of the sublime.

Andrew: Best gift you’ve ever received?
Noah: A poem about me and my daughter.

Andrew: Best gift you’ve ever given?
Noah: A portable hammock. It becomes a way of life!

Andrew: Who is your ideal client?
Noah: An expert in a niche field that can teach me things that will make my work better.

About The Maker | Noah Waxman is the head of strategy at Cactus. A creative and strategic leader with 15 years of experience in brand strategy, innovation consulting and entrepreneurship. Noah is focused on leading his team to produce creative work that is bold enough to capture imaginations while at once calculated enough to make an impact in the real world. Prior to founding Cactus, Noah was StrategyDirector at Redscout where he helped C-suite clients tackle their thorniest innovation and brand challenges.

Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. See more of his work here

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