Experimental systems and new materials break ground in an untapped field of architectureEarlier this month, Brooklyn-based design practice The Principals installed Wave Dilfert, an interactive "light-sensitive barrel vault" created for The Feast, a social innovation conference that took place this year in Essex Street Market. With their unique trifecta of talents, the founders of The Principals—Christopher Williams, a metal fabricator, Charles Constantine, an industrial designer, and Drew Seskuras, an architect—seem poised to lead the pack of interactive environmental architects. Interactive design is a quickly growing field thanks to events like do-it-yourself festival Maker Faire and the proliferation of open-source electronics prototyping platforms like Arduino. But before The Principals dominate the design-build world, we wanted to revisit the installation that caught everyone's eye at NY Design Week: Cosmic Quilt. Cosmic Quilt began as an architectural research project, which The Principals opened up to students at the Art Institute of New York. "The response was a bit overwhelming," said Seskunas. "Interactive design isn't even a subject at the Art Institute, but the desire of the students to learn about it was really staggering." The Principals first led their group of eager students in researching different kinds of paper, a material they chose not only for its cost effectiveness, but because small, lightweight, interlocking pieces of paper facilitate the kind of free movement they were aiming for. There are 3,000 4x4-inch squares in all, which are coated for durability, die-cut into two patterns, and woven into four 4x8-foot quilts with small plastic fasteners that attach at the corners. Seskunas can't divulge the materials in the coating because it's patent pending, but as far as the pattern is concerned, "we were inspired by coats of armor, scale patterns on reptiles, and catenary curves," he said. "The main problem to solve was how to achieve a gradient curve that could simultaneously increase light flow, but using no more than two different pieces. Our aim was to achieve maximum complexity with a minimum amount of dissimilar parts." Cosmic Quilt - REALIZED from The Principals on Vimeo. Since they have the facilities to fabricate and construct everything in their Greenpoint, studio, Seskunas, Williams, and Constantine had the luxury of going back and forth between building and digital design throughout the entire process. After they built a working scale model, The Principals fabricated the full-size quilts and attached them to a welded aluminum frame through which they wove the wiring and sensors. They then mounted the assembly to the ceiling. The quilt is attached to hi-torque stepper motors controlled by a series of Arduinos equipped with light sensors that read the shadows of people walking underneath. The Principals wrote an Arduino code that transmits that information to motors, resulting in the undulating movements of the quilt. "This, in turn, also affects the changes in light patterns, creating a feedback loop in which the quilt can communicate with the people under it as well as with itself," Seskunas said. The Principals also hid sensors along the floor and hung them from the ceiling along with instructions for visitors explaining how their physical movement would impact the shape of the quilt. "We experiment with each project on where to put the sensors," Seskunas said. "Sometimes people want to know where they are and sometimes they're content to not be aware how exactly they are affecting the installation. In this case we decided to do both." "This is a new territory for architects and designers, so each time we have the opportunity to do something like this we observe how people react, what the effect on them is, what they get and don't get, and how the feeling in the space changes," Seskunas continued. For their latest installation, Wave Dilfert, The Principals created a more immersive architectural space with technology similar to that used in Cosmic Quilt, but with a new skin that can work on X, Y, and Z axes. "The difference of feeling in the space was really powerful. As you walked through it the space either contracted or expanded, and the reaction of the people who experienced it was amazing," he said. As The Principals' work continues to grow in scale, user experience, and technological fabrication, Seskunas said they're continually inspired by the "unbounded consequences" referenced by Walter Benjamin in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: "The orientation of reality toward the masses and of the masses toward reality is a process of unbounded consequence not only for thought but also for the ways we see things." The Principals aren't sure where their research will take them, but whether it's for a weekend-long installation or a building skin, you can be certain the user will play an exciting part in its ultimate configuration.
Posts tagged with "Essex Street Market":
'Butter Cow Lady' Dies at 81: Norma Lyon, known for sculpting tons of butter into life-size figures of cows, famous people, and even a diorama of the Last Supper at the Iowa State Fair, has passed away, the New York Times reports. Ms. Lyon got her start in butter sculpting in 1960 as the sculptor of the Butter Cow at the fair, after studying animal science and taking studio classes at Iowa State University. In 2007, she created a sculpture of then-Senator Obama from 23 pounds of butter, and Politico credited her endorsement for his victory in the Iowa caucus. New Plans for the Essex Street Market: The decades-old market is part of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area on the Lower East Side, an area targeted for dramatic housing and economic development in the coming years. So what does that mean for the Essex Street Market? Planning officials presented renderings to show what a new market in a two-story mixed-use development might look like. Europe Hates Drivers: Cities across Europe are making driving more expensive and inconvenient to steer residents away from cars. Is it a good idea or a road trip to hell on earth? In Zurich, the Times reports:
Closely spaced red lights have been added on roads into town, causing delays and angst for commuters. Pedestrian underpasses that once allowed traffic to flow freely across major intersections have been removed. Operators in the city’s ever expanding tram system can turn traffic lights in their favor as they approach, forcing cars to halt.Talk About a Space Saver: JDS Architects put a rolling playground atop three penthouse apartments in a turn-of-the-century building in Copenhagen. The roof includes a grassy hill with curved steps and a wooden deck, a playground and a suspension bridge. Fast Company Design reports the budget for the penthouses and the roof was $1.35 million. 6 Alternatives to Plastic: For its newest project, Studio Formafantasma dug into centuries-old technology to design plastic-like objects "designed as if the oil-based era, in which we are living, never took place.” Read on to see what they used.