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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Sufi Turning – Work in Progress Show

Sufi Turning – Work in Progress Show

Conceptual Development

A theme that I have been exploring constantly over the last 6 months, is the notion that a live musical performance is a complex series of interactions between the performers and audience that creates a very organic, unique experience for everyone involved. Disregarding acoustic feedback, the architectural containment of such performances, whether it be a stage, nightclub or concert hall are arguably static and do not physically react or contribute to the organic, energetic nature of performance.

In particular, the festival architecture at present usually exists as a stage or a tent. Both of which are static structures that provide the fundamental infrastructure needed to put on a show. In most cases large led screens and lights are used to dress the structures, providing a visual show for the crowd not in the immediate vicinity of the stage. I find this setup extremely exclusive and intimacy between the performer and the audience is dramatically reduced with every couple of meters travelled away from the stage.

Project Proposal

I propose to introduce a performance responsive architectural pavilion to the festival, that will physically contain the audience, whilst becoming an active contributor to the performance by responding to and reflecting the organic energy of performance. I have taken inspiration from the festival flags (pictured below) This is a great example of an audience controlled kinetic addition to the performance. To me I see that the crowd are implementing their own architecture on the otherwise very open, exposed space by controlling planes and influencing the scenes to improve atmospheric quality. Using this idea of moving material as a precedent, I have since then found other performance related uses of fabric, such as that of the Sufi turners or whirling dervishes of Turkey (video below).



Over the past few weeks leading up to the project faire I have been experimenting with different shapes of fabrics and methods of creating movement. Through this development I have discovered (similarly to the Sufi turners) beautiful oscillating wave patterns in fabric that are rotated at different speeds around a central axis. In addition to this, I have discovered that the spinning fabric releases a rather strong presence of air distribution on the space below. I think this is interesting to consider when imagining these things at an architectural scale. The physical prescience of these objects may introduce that feeling of containment I discussed earlier. As well as spinning the fabric, I have also been thinking about possible inputs to control the motor speed and therefore effecting the character of the disk. As I explained, i would like to somehow map the energy and organic qualities of the performance on the physical architectural containment of the performance. In the examples below I developed a patch in Max MSP that takes the MIDI input signal from a synthesiser and maps it to control the speed of the motor. In this example the performer can physically ‘play the architecture’.


Speculative Vision

The image above represents my speculative vision for this project at a huge festival scale. The image demonstrates an array of spinning fabric disks that react to some readable character of the performance, whether it be BPM or crowd noise ect. Although the image is exaggerated, I have thought about possible different ways to physically support the spinning disks. The idea demonstrated above imagines a tensile structural wire grid system.

Prototype – Project Show Feedback

Technical Set-up

For the WIP project show I designed a suspended version of the spinning latex disk, over a DMX light and controlled by the MIDI input from the synthesiser. The scale of which was dictated by the material size (1m diameter) and the torque of the motor. Figuring out the physics involved was completely new to me and a very significant learning process.


The instillation offered the visitors to have a direct interaction with the spinning material. The system designed had little to no lag and therefore a direct correlation between the keyboard key press and the behaviour of the fabric was obvious. The most frequently asked question was, “what next?”

I now have the apparatus to play with larger cuts of material and several other variables including;

  • Size of material (diameter)
  • Material type
  • Adaptations to material (perforations/ pleats)
  • size of supporting disk
  • input design (how can i map the energy of the audience/performer and turn that data into motor rotation?)
  • An array of disks
  • Lighting

Other feedback included comments about augmenting what I had already achieved. Several comments were made about capturing the disk with a high speed camera and looking for patterns in the fabric not seen by the naked eye. Other comments were about the input, wondering if frequency of the sound produced by the synth would be more of an interesting link to the material rather than the MIDI key press alone.

Through my personal observation I found that the vast possibilities of the synth allowed the ‘driver’ to assign a sound characteristic to what the material was doing. This created a very playful interaction, one that i did not foresee.



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