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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Robotecture – Michael Fox

  • On April 20, 2006

Michael Fox spoke at the Game Set Match Conference a fortnight ago about his approach to teaching Interactive Architecture which he's developed through his time teaching at MIT's Kinetic Design Group, SCI-Arc, Hong Polytechnic University, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and currently at Cal Poly Pomona where he is assistant Professor of Architecture. His practice Foxlin and his teaching-research called Robotecture explore human and environmental interaction and behaviors, embedded computational infrastructures, kinetic and mechanical systems and physical control mechanisms.

His students examine interactive architecture as spaces and objects that can reconfigure themselves to meet changing needs with a specific interest in physical and tangible change. For me this makes an ambitious and exciting approach to the way interactive architecture can be explored and reflects my own personal research and practice in tangible interaction.

In the past year I've posted what I consider interactive architecture to encompass and as you may have noticed, this reflects a broad and multidisciplinary combination of digital and analogue, physical actual and digital virtual investigations not just within architecture but across scientific and art based communities. Michael Fox's pedagogical approach to inspiring students of the potential for new forms of interactive space encapsulates a base foundation of a number of these disciplines.

“The teaching methods were carried out with a group of undergraduate design students who had no previous experience in mechanical engineering, electronics, programming, or kinetic design with the goal of creating a responsive kinetic system that can demonstrate physical interactive behaviors on an applicable architectural scale. We found the approach to be extremely successful in terms of psychologically demystifying unfamiliar and often daunting technologies, while simultaneously clarifying the larger architectural implications of the novel systems that had been created.”

Student began with a series of small investigations in model making cumulatively building up to incorporating engineering and computing components while supported by lectures creating a conceptual framework. “It is in this manner that the students' initial model explorations gradually grow in complexity, integrating first automatic functions, and later, more complex autonomous behaviors and lastly architectural applicability and conceptual insight.”

Michael Fox shows how interactive architecture doesn't require a degree in computing, electronics, and architecture just to get things going. The combination of simple practical skills from these disciplines within a conceptual framework is capable of creating something much more exciting than the individual disciplines would appear to offer. Over the next few weeks I'll be showing some of the projects that Michael Fox has run. Robotecture Website

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