David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang of ‘The Living’ Architects presented their recent work at the Interactive Architecture event I organised at Eyebeam last month. They have just released 2 lovely little books called ‘Life Size‘ 1 & 2 which explore the possibility of creating open source design processes. The first volume of Life Size includes ‘DIY directions for making a responsive kinetic system, an energy self-sufficient display, and a collapsible framing structure out of weak materials.’ & the second volume of this series includes essays by Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Livia Corona, Holly Kretschmar, Seth Mnookin, William Wu and SISYPHUS.
Whats most interesting for me about David and Soo-ins work is their methodology they call "flash research," which they define as an architectural research project with a budget under $1000 and a ninety-day timeline, expected to result in a fully functioning, 1:1 scale prototype. To me this seems a challenging approach that forces you to consider low tech solutions rather than spending a fortune on answering problems often with unsustainable answers.
When interviewed by Metropolis Magazine David discussed how each Flash Research project is driven by a specific query. “The initial question for Living Glass was: What if architecture responded to you?” Benjamin says. “ We asked, What if good architecture and bottom-line development were the same thing?” Rather than simply creating computer models, they decided that to prove their solution they would need to test it, down to the exact thickness of the plywood or joint necessary for a design to be successful.
David and Soo-in run a graduate class at Columbia Architecture school where with their students, they continue to experiment with these ideas of rapid experimentation often in the context of responsive & kinetic spatial design. Check out their website where you can find out more about their projects such as living River Glow, a network of pods that act as an interface between the water quality of the river and local inhabitants awareness of environmental conditions and Living Glass, a silent transforming and transparent surface that responds to inhabitants proximity.
“In the world of surveillance, the architecture of systems has effectively replaced architecture.” Eric Schuldenfrei
I was introduced to the work of Eric Schuldenfrei recently by Eyebeam Resident Jennifer Broutin. Schuldenfrei’s work focuses on the evolving relationship between animation, architecture, and art and has a diverse portfolio of projects that I couldn’t hope to all cover. Instead I will just cover one of his video pieces ‘Reciprocity‘ because of my own personal interest in reciprocal environments which I explored with my installation ‘Reciprocal Space‘. To look at more of Eric’s work visit his portfolio website.
Eric describes how “Theories of reciprocity… are used to describe relationships, mutually beneficial actions, situations of give and take, influence, correspondence, cause and effects within social structures. In reciprocity a relationship forms between those who operate and develop surveillance systems and those under surveillance.”
“Automatic digital collection systems and linked databases create highly contested spaces, raising questions of both security and privacy. Control is no longer conceived through building sections, plans, or perspectives, instead it is envisioned as a spatial construct in real-time, fully automated systems happening ubiquitously.”
The SplineGraft project sets up a reactive environment in which sound dampening panels are continuously reshaped by a network of actuating devices, triggered by user movement. The panels are grafted into an existing environment, supported by structural racks allowing a range of different configurations. The SplineGraft can be set in different overall shapes independent of its behavior. The different parts are grafted onto each other; the profiled polyurethane panels are articulated by the configuration of the structural racks. The texture of this primary form is reshaped in real time by the control system integrated in the structural racks; a continuous form finding process with emergent patterning effects. In return, the spline ridges of the panels disperse these transformations horizontally.
The supporting structural racks are assembled from cnc-milled clear acrylic units, each integrating the actuating mechanisms, milled tracks for cabling and etched nickel brass conduits for inter-unit connectivity. The angle between each structural component can be set in five different positions, allowing the rack to be set at a convex or concave configuration, while maintaining conductive links between each part. Each rack of five units is controlled by a micro controller, steering the integrated actuators in the form of dual shape memory alloy wires. The central intelligence of each rack communicates with neighboring racks through radio.
The behaviour of the SplineGraft is controlled by a genetic algorithm; a computer program that simulates and compresses the geologically slow processes of natural selection to nanoseconds of computational time, in order to evolve solutions to specific problems. The Spline Graft algorithm is in this way trying to emit patterns of movement which stimulate occupation of the space it has been grafted in to. The matching of sensor readings and motor reactions in an apparently intentional way by the Spline Graft, transforms architecture into a cybernetic agent involved in the making and production of space.
CNC-milled acrylic structural components with integrated wiring, machined polyurethane foam, etched nickel brass conductors, IR Movement Sensor, custom made PCB Cards, AVR Atmega8 Microcontrollers, Radio Modules, diverse electronic components, Flexinol® shape memory alloy actuators with protective Teflon tubes. SplineGraft was developed by Krets partners Pablo Miranda and Jonas Runberger. A full list of credits are available on the project website.
When Gary Chang spoke at the Simplicity Symposium at Ars Electronica curated by John Maeda last year, I was amazed by his life story growing up in Hong Kong in cramped conditions and how as an architect these experiences have shaped his interest in creating living and working spaces. Gary founded his company EDGE in 1994, and quickly gained a reputation for his dedication to work and award-winning multi-disciplinary designs. In 2003, the company was renamed EDGE Design Institute to better describe its mix of research-based and commercial activities.
His own appartment in Hong Kong which he once lived in with his whole family has now become a testing ground for him to experiment with ways of making reconfigurable spaces. Ultimate spatial flexibility is created through the multiple operations of the partitions. lighting. and mobile furniture. All the mundane necessities of bachelor life – books. CDs. clothing, pictures. stereo, videos are stacked on a chrome factory shelving system and hidden discreetly behind floating white curtains. the central space becomes the actual space for living, working, eating, sleeping, chatting, dressing and reading. Blue fluorescent tubes are carefully placed to wash the floor with an unearthly glow, while bright up-lighting articulates structural members. the main aperture of the front window offers views to the world beyond whether the actual view out of the window, or through the large scale movie screen to the fantasy world of hollywood, the real world of news, or the electronic world of internet.
The progression from this project was the ‘Suitcase House Hotel’ which the images above and below show
"Casting a question mark on the proverbial image of the house, Suitcase House Hotel attempts to rethink the nature of intimacy, privacy, spontaneity and flexibility. It is a simple demonstration of the desire for ultimate adaptability, in pursuit of a proscenium for infinite scenarios, a plane of sensual (p)leisure."
"Imagine. In the daytime, a couple stays in the Suitcase. They could open up all the sliding partitions and enjoy a totally indoor open space with a dimension of 44 by 5 meter. Later in the day, they may open up a series of chamber according to their mood. Listen to the music in the Music chamber, read a book in the Library, meditate on the glazed floor. In the evening, when more guests arrive, the entire space turns into a lounge for party, celebration and other events. Rooms could then be gradually formulated when the night falls. A maximum of 7 guest rooms would be formed, which may accommodate up to 14 guests if the party goes late and they stay overnight."
To blur the boundaries between House, Interior and Furniture, the entire structure and elements are monotonically cladded in timber inside and outside of the steel structure supported by and cantilevered out from the concrete base which house facilities including a pantry, maid’s quarter, boiler room and the sauna.
update heres a film showing what Gary did to his own home