Posts tagged with "Interactive Design":

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San Francisco’s “Murmur Wall” installation tells your secrets in public

We’ve all heard a lot about “smart cities” and “responsive architecture,” by what about architecture that tells secrets? Murmur Wall, designed by Jason Kelly Johnson and Nataly Gattegno of the experimental design practice Future Cities Lab, does just that. The pair describes their site-specific installation at the main entrance to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco in as “artificially intelligent architecture.” “We are interested in exploring how data can become visceral, tangible, and poetic,” Johnson explained. “We’re experimenting with its potential to create meaning and a sense of place within the contemporary city.” Murmur Wall harvests local online activities—via search engines and social media—and broadcasts select phrases back into public space. Visitors to the wall can also contribute anonymous secrets, rumors, and gossip to the wall at the website Unlike many interactive artworks that rely on screens to share information, the sculptural installation uses a steel tube armature and illuminated fiber optic rods. LED lights embedded in the acrylic tubes illuminate the stream of whispers along the length of the Murmur Wall. When the real-time data reaches the 3D printed “pods” embedded with LED display, the small, embedded screens display a brief text before the data continues on as a light stream. This integration of digital and architectural strategies comes from Future Cities Lab research and teaching practices. Both designers are faculty at the California College of the Arts where Gattegno is Chair of the CCA Graduate Architecture program and Johnson coordinates the CCA Digital Craft Lab. Their work embraces the booming tech culture all around them in the Bay Area and then grapples with potential architectural applications, finding solutions that go beyond smart city catchphrases. “There is a lot of talk these days about how the Internet of Things will make the city more efficient, informed, and productive,” said Johnson. “We are more interested in its potential to connect people, to help them share ideas and experiences, and create communities in the physical world.” Revealing secrets is the first step. The installation is open and accessible to the public 24/7 at the Mission Street entrance the museum. A second Future Cities Lab piece, Lightswarm from 2014, is on view on the south facade of YBCA’s Grand Lobby.
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Red Deer Lights Up Burning Man

Prismatic pyramid evokes desert mirage by day, Aurora Borealis by night.

Given that their pyramidal acrylic installation at this summer's Burning Man was inspired in part by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover, it seems safe to say that the architects at Red Deer "get" the festival's vibe. "We try to get very intimate with our sites, so it was interesting to approach one that we hadn't been able to visit," said founding director Ciarán O'Brien. "Some of the primal forces we could see at play there were the heat of the desert and the way people interact with structures. Specifically, for us it was about light in all its forms." The UK firm worked closely with the structural engineers at Structure Mode to design a transparent six-meter-tall structure comprising interlocking equilateral triangles, while New York Institute of Technology professor Charles Matz contributed an integrated light display based on the Aurora Borealis. "All kinds of imagery came to mind that held to the desert landscape," said O'Brien. "By day, the concept evoked a mirage; by night, a kaleidoscope. One is ephemeral, a non-place; the other is specific, a beacon." Called Luz 2.0, the Burning Man installation is only the latest iteration of an ongoing exploration of the relationship between matter and light. The project began as a response to a commission for a band pavilion. "Red Deer's original idea was a scaffolding framework that would be clad in some reflective material," recalled Structure Mode's Geoff Morrow. "We suggested going one step beyond that and building an acrylic pyramid, to make it much more special." The clients canceled, but the designers applied for grants, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and debuted Luz at Secret Garden Party 2013 in Abbots Ripton, England. The first Luz featured a touch-sensitive floor screen-printed with a colorful pattern that appeared to change shape under different lighting conditions. For Burning Man, Red Deer omitted the floor "so that you interacted with the playa landscape," said O'Brien. Red Deer and Structure Mode jointly developed Luz 2.0's reciprocal modular system. "It was really interesting investigating how all these different connections could work, what different shapes could work within a three-sided pyramid," said Red Deer's Lucas Che Tizard. "The system we use is composed of equilateral triangles, but it actually gives us more than just pyramids—you see hexagons as well." The architects worked first with hand sketches, then transferred their ideas to SketchUp before moving to 3ds Max, Rhino, and Vectorworks to finalize the structure and start to explore how the modules would connect to one another. Structure Mode analyzed the design's structural stability in Oasys' GSA Suite.
  • Fabricator Red Deer, Structure Mode
  • Designers Red Deer (architects), Structure Mode (structural engineering), Charles Matz (lighting)
  • Location Black Rock City, NV
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material acrylic, bolts, barrel nuts, washers, custom lighting system, Mogees sensors
  • Process sketching, SketchUp, 3ds Max, Rhino, Vectorworks, Oasys GSA, CNC milling, shipping, drilling, wiring
Red Deer flattened the final design and emailed the files to the CNC cutters. At that point the three-dimensional installation "became a flat pack kit," said O'Brien. "Part of the challenge was that each of these pieces should be human-sized, so that they could be built by a small team using basic tools in desert conditions." To simplify installation, Structure Mode developed a streamlined bolt-and-nut assembly based on furniture-making connections. "In a way it's kind of low-tech, but it looks high-tech," said O'Brien. The UK contingent shipped Luz 2.0 to the Nevada desert in three crates. The components took longer than expected to arrive: though they had hoped to begin installation on Monday, the architects were forced to wait until Thursday. Nonetheless, the on-site crew managed to assemble the pyramid in just two days using hand drills. Matz's team, meanwhile, arrived on site with the electronics, including custom hardware based on 3D models sent to them by Red Deer. The installation of the lighting system "came together seamlessly," said O'Brien. "We were somewhat concerned about voltage, but it worked out." The only disappointment involved the Mogees sensors, designed to trigger changes in the light show as visitors climbed on and around the pyramid. They worked well in a small-scale test, but "unfortunately the settings didn't translate to the seven-meter structure," said O'Brien. "I can't say it fully fulfilled that brief." Red Deer and their collaborators will soon have another shot at realizing the vision behind Luz 2.0. As befits the installation's emphasis on the immaterial—not to mention the ethos of Burning Man itself—the architects plan to re-erect the structure elsewhere. "We've had quite a few offers from various benefactors, but we haven't figured out what would be best," said O'Brien. "Right now it's in storage in Reno, awaiting its next move."
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Urbana’s Shape-Shifting Parking Garage Facade

Folded aluminum panels deliver the illusion of movement to passersby.

During their recent expansion, Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis approached Urbana Studio with an unusual request. The hospital wanted the Los Angeles-based art and architecture firm to design an interactive facade for a recently completed parking structure. "With Indianapolis' really extreme weather patterns, we gave a lot of thought to: how can we make something that's interactive but won't be broken in a year?" said Urbana principal Rob Ley. "Unfortunately, the history of kinetic facades teaches us that that they can become a maintenance nightmare." Urbana's solution was to turn the relationship between movement and the object on its head. Though the aluminum facade, titled May September, is itself static, it appears to morph and change color as the viewer walks or drives by. May September—a semi-transparent rectangular wall comprising 7,000 angled aluminum panels—was inspired in part by Ley's interest in camouflage, and specifically active camouflage. "I wanted to take that on more in a passive way than an active way," he said. The designers set out to create something like a lenticular image, which seems to shift or jump into three dimensions as the angle of view changes. "Could we make something where the pieces themselves don't move, but we recognize that the people in front of it will be moving?" asked Ley. Urbana Studio dedicated six months to the design before sending it to fabrication. The first half of the work was digital, primarily using Rhino and Grasshopper as well as software the designers wrote themselves in Processing. The team spent a lot of time on color. "The idea was to find two colors that would have a good contrast, and that maybe don't exist at all in Indianapolis," said Ley. The final scheme, which pairs deep blue with golden yellow, drew on the work of local landscape artist T.C. Steele. After building renderings and animations on the computer, the firm constructed mockups to check their assumptions. The unique site conditions influenced both the choice of material—aluminum—and the placement of the panels. "It had to be very lightweight, because it was going on a structure that wasn't engineered to have anything like this on it," said Ley. The designers also had to contend with the natural movement of the garage, and wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour. "It doesn't seem that interesting, but when the entire project is basically making sails, the wind issue is counterintuitive to what you're doing," said Ley.
  • Fabricator Indianapolis Fabrications
  • Designers Urbana Studio
  • Location Indianapolis
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material aluminum flaps from Ryerson, custom aluminum extrusions from Northern States Metals, stainless steel fasteners
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, scripting, cutting, folding, bolting, sliding, lifting, hanging
Indianapolis Fabrications fabricated and installed the facade. "We'd worked to pare the design down to be very modular, so there would be no waste materials," said Ley. "We also worked out a system that would look like there's an infinite number of variations of angles, but in the end there are only three. We're faking a lot of variability with a system that doesn't have that many possibilities." Urbana Studio also designed a custom aluminum extrusion so that the bolts—three per panel, or 21,000 in total—could slide into the facade's vertical structural elements without the use of a drill. "It allowed us to have this very erratic placement of elements without having thousands of holes to verify," explained Ley. Indianapolis Fabrications assembled the facade off site in 10 by 26 foot sections. The size of the pieces was dictated by factors including the width of the street, the overhang on the existing structure, and the wind resistance each component would face as it was lifted into place. Ley was pleasantly surprised by the interest May September generated among other would-be garage designers. "There are a lot of parking garages out there," he said. "Usually they're very much an appliance. As an archetype, the parking structure is not very interesting, but everyone's anticipating that they're not going away." As for his own firm, Ley would welcome another commission for a parking structure—particularly one that allowed him to work from the ground up. "I enjoyed dealing with a window treatment," he said. "But it would be nice to be involved earlier on, to be able to pursue it in a more holistic way."
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Interactive Thermoplastic Pavilion by B+U

A thin shell pavilion with an audio feedback program invites engagement.

Apertures, the amorphous pavilion designed and fabricated by Baumgartner+Uriu (B+U) with students from SCI-Arc, challenges two of architecture’s defining dualities: the distinction between wall and window, and the division between exterior and interior. “Conceptually, we were looking at objects that are multi-directional and have apertures as their main theme,” said partner Herwig Baumgartner. “That was one aspect of it; the other was the barriers between inside and outside and how we can dissolve these. We’re interested in architecture that’s responsive through either movement or sound.” As visitors pass through or otherwise engage with the 16-foot-tall, 1/8-inch-thick structure’s many rounded openings, attached heat sensors trigger sounds based on human bio-rhythms, creating a feedback loop that encourages active exploration of the space. In addition to the themes of apertures and inside versus outside, B+U were interested in investigating the technology of thin shell structures. “How can you build something that’s over ten feet tall and very thin, and what’s the minimal material you can get away with?” asked Baumgartner. The architects used digital modeling software including Maya to determine the pavilion’s form, then constructed a series of mockups in different materials. “We’d be working with consultants, or we’d ask fabricators: how would they build this?” recalled partner Scott Uriu. “We were thrown quite a few interesting ideas. A lot of them wouldn’t quite pan out, but we were always working back and forth between digital and analog design.” The designers originally tried building Apertures out of acoustic foam. “It was interesting for us because it creates an absorptive environment, but it was very weak,” said Baumgartner. They considered supporting it with an egg-crate structure. “But in the end we said, ‘Let’s get rid of the structure and make the surface the structure,’” he explained. They landed on heat-formed plastic, a thin material that becomes self-supporting when molded into certain shapes. “We did a mockup and we really liked it,” said Baumgartner. “It’s glossy and shiny on the outside, but the inside was matte. It has a very different interior and exterior.” Matt Melnyck, a principal at Nous Engineering, worked closely with B+U to insure the pavilion’s stability.
  • Fabricator B+U with SCI-Arc students
  • Designers B+U
  • Location Los Angeles
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material thermoplastic polymer resin, aluminum rivets
  • Process Maya, modeling, CNC milling, heat forming, bolting, lifting
With 35 students from SCI-Arc, B+U CNC-milled polyurethane foam molds for the pavilion’s 233 panels. At Warner Bros. Staff Shop, they poured the hot plastic resin over the molds, then cut out and painted the components. Reveals and guides milled into the molds indicate attachment points; the panels are joined with aluminum rivets. On site at SCI-Arc, the design team assembled the panels into nine sections of 30-40 panels each before lifting them into place. Designed for easy assembly and disassembly, the structure “breaks down into 233 panels and nests well,” said Uriu. Media artist Hannes Köcher developed Apertures’ audio program based on B+U’s concept. “If you stick your head through the apertures or you walk through them, the majority of them have sensors. Different sensors trigger different sounds—we basically made a thermal map of the object,” said Baumgartner. “When you’re in the space and especially when there’s multiple people in the space, it heats up. The sound starts building up over time, almost like a polyphony thing.” Because the audio is delivered through transducer speakers, visitors feel as well as hear the rhythms. During its spring showing at SCI-Arc, the result was exactly as B+U had hoped, Baumgartner reflected. “People started interacting with it, entering into a sort of feedback with the sounds.”
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Constructivist Playground by Warren Techentin Architecture

An interactive installation reconsiders the definitions of enclosure and openness.

Warren Techentin Architecture’s digitally-designed La Cage Aux Folles, on display at Materials & Applications in Los Angeles through August, was inspired by a decidedly analog precedent: the yurt. “Yurts are circular,” explained Techentin, who studied the building type as part of his thesis work at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. “That began the idea of using small-diameter rods and taking software and configuring sweeps with some special scripts that we found online.” But while the yurt’s primary function is shelter, Techentin’s open-air installation, built of 6,409 linear feet of steel pipe, is a literal and intellectual playground, its form an investigation of the dualities of inside and out, enclosure and openness. Once the architects became familiar with the scripts, which allowed them to manipulate multiple pipes simultaneously, they found it easy to generate designs. The hard part was settling on a final shape. Then an off-hand observation narrowed their focus. “Somebody made a comment about, it looks like a crazy cage,” said Techentin. “We realized, ‘Oh, there’s this cage component. What if we imagine spaces inside spaces?’ That’s where these interiorized conditions came through, kind of creating layers of inside and outside.” Technical constraints further influenced the form. “We had to jump out of the digital world and decide how this was made in reality,” said Techentin. To minimize materials costs, the architects decided to work with schedule 40 steel tube, which is available in 24-foot lengths. Returning to Rhino, they broke apart their model and rescripted it accordingly. They modified their model again after learning what radiuses their metalworking contractor could accommodate. “It was kind of a balancing act between hitting these radiuses, the 24-foot lengths, and repetition—but how do you get difference and variety,” said Techentin.
  • Fabricator Ramirez Ironworks, Paramount Roll and Forming
  • Designers Warren Techentin Architecture
  • Location Los Angeles
  • Date of Completion April 2014
  • Material Schedule 40 steel tube
  • Process Rhino, scripting, bending, cutting, sleeving, welding, bolting, painting
Warren Techentin Architecture originally sought a digital fabricator for the project. But the quotes they received were too high, and they could not locate a manufacturer able to work with pipes longer than six feet. They contacted Paramount Roll and Forming, who rolled and bent the tubes by hand for one-tenth of what digital fabrication would have cost. “It wasn’t what we wanted, but in the end we wanted to see the project through,” said Techentin. Paramount sent the shaped steel to Ramirez Ironworks, where volunteers interested in metalworking helped assemble the structure. The design and fabrication team then disassembled it, painted the components, and transported them for reassembly on the site, a small courtyard in the Silver Lake neighborhood. La Cage Aux Folles invites active exploration. “My work draws great influence [from] architecture as something that you interface with, interact with—that envelops you, becomes part of an environment you participate with,” said Techentin, who overheard someone at the opening call his structure “a constructivist playground.” “We fully intended people walking around in there, lying down,” he said. “The surprise factor were the number of people who feel inspired to climb to the second and, more ambitiously, the third cages. We’re not encouraging it, but people do it.”
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Student’s Puzzle Facade Project Is an Architecturally-Scaled Game

In his school project, Puzzle Facade, Spanish designer Javier Lloret decided to transform the exterior of an Austrian museum into an interactive piece of architectural entertainment: a giant Rubik’s Cube. Lloret wirelessly connected a 3D-printed handheld cube to a laptop responsible for controlling colors on the facade of a nearby building roughly shaped like a cube: the Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria. The building proved to be an ideal canvas for the project as it was already furnished with an LED-lit media facade. The cube is equipped with electronic components enabling it to keep track of its orientation and subsequent rotations. The data is sent wirelessly via Bluetooth to a nearby laptop which runs software specifically designed for the project. The software enables the building to change color each time the handheld interface-cube is moved and twisted. Solving your own Rubik’s cube is difficult enough, but the 3D-printed controller for this larger-than-life version of the game presented even more challenging obstacles. The cube is white, making it harder for those who have memorized the color pattern of a regular Rubik's cube to solve the game. Moreover, due to the location and nature of the building, the player is only able to view two facades at the same time, which increases the difficulty in solving the puzzle. Javier Lloret developed this project as part of his thesis at the Interface Culture master program at the Universitat Kunstlerische and Industrielle Gestaltung Linz.