Posts tagged with "MIT":

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How green is your city? MIT’s new online map will tell you

Researchers at the MIT Senseable City Lab have developed a new way of measuring how “green” a city is using Google Street View. The project, called Treepedia, presents an index of cities by measuring their “Green Canopy,” the aboveground portion of trees and vegetation you can see as you walk around. The maps reflect the data collected by the team and the city’s corresponding Green View Index (GVI), the measurement of the percentage of canopy coverage in a certain area according to human perception. By using Google Street View instead of satellite imagery, the team measured the cities through the eyes of the everyday pedestrian. The MIT research team worked with the World Economic Forum and its Global Shapers Community initiative to put together Treepedia and they continue to collect information to add cities to their list of indexes available for comparison. By providing quantifiable data about tree coverage, the Treepedia team hopes cities and their citizens will take the initiative to advocate for more trees in their communities. They also hope to add features to the site down the road that will help citizens tag trees in their area and alert their local authorities about areas in need of greater tree coverage. Although the planting of trees may seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of urban development, Treepedia reiterates the benefits of tree-lined streets for city living. “As many cities experience warming temperatures, increased storm frequency, and continued air pollution, the well-being of our urban trees has never been more important,” said Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab, in a press release. “We present here an index by which to compare cities against one another, encouraging local authorities and communities to take action to protect and promote the green canopy cover.” You can play around with Treepedia's maps and learn more about tree coverage in your city by visiting their website here.
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SOM Foundation announces annual travel fellowship winners

The SOM Foundation has announced the 2016 SOM Foundation Fellowships. Since 1981, the foundation has awarded over 200 graduating undergraduate and graduate students of architecture, design, urban design, and structural engineering with money to fund travel and research in the year after graduation. This year’s winners include MIT M.Arch graduate Jongwan Kwon, Columbia University M.Arch graduate Lindsey Wikstrom, and MIT M.S. in Building Technology graduate Nathan Collin Brown. The SOM Foundation also awarded three $5,000 SOM China Prizes to recent graduates in China. The awardees are chosen by independent juries composed of multi-disciplinary professionals and SOM Foundation officers. The mission of the awards is to “nurture future leaders in design by giving them the opportunity to broaden their cultural and aesthetic horizons through travel outside of their countries.” The top award, the SOM Prize, was awarded to Jongwan Kwon for his proposed research topic, “After Efficiency: Logistics Infrastructure from a Regional Perspective.” With the awarded $50,000, Kwon will travel through international ports, airports, canals, and tunnels to study the impact infrastructure projects have on their regional environment. Kwon will interview noted scholars and practitioners throughout his travels to better understand the subject. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Master of Architecture degree and a Certificate in Urban Design, Kwon was appointed as a Teaching Fellow at the school. Kwon has worked at Kengo Kuma & Associates and Morphosis Architects. The $20,000 SOM Travel Fellowship was awarded to Lindsey Wikstrom, a recent graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning (GSAPP). Wikstrom’s research topic “An Immersive Catalogue of Housing Systems,” will focus on producing a catalogue exploring the how living environments are produced through the “convergence of markets, demand, and social vitality.” The catalogue will be a “comprehensive visual report of the systems, occupants, and typologies.” The SOM Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship was awarded to Nathan Collin Brown. The Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship “aims to foster an appreciation of the aesthetic potential in the structural design of buildings and bridges.” Browns proposal, “Integrating Secondary Goals into Structural Design,” will take him to North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. The SOM Foundation was established in 1979. The fellowships were set up in order to provide support outside of the traditional academic setting. Awardees are expected to use the money to travel internationally to conduct research and “broaden their cultural and aesthetic horizons.”
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MIT researcher aims to expand the role of glass in construction

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Architect and educator Cristina Parreño’s ongoing research project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is called “Tectonics of Transparency” and it's challenging the “generic-ness” of glass in construction today. The project is being realized through a unique format of prototypes divided into three formal categories: the Wall Series, Tower Series, and Shelter Series. Each type is further broken down into scales: a “model scale” of 8-cubic-feet, and an “installation scale” of inhabitable size. The format allows for experimentation with technique, and for multiple funding sources to support various components of the project. Parreño pinpoints her interest in expanding the role of glass to a 1950s patent on “float glass” by Pilkington, who developed a process for efficiently manufacturing large flat sheets of the material. “Despite its potential, modern technology didn’t fully exploit the multitude of material attributes offered by glazing, which in a flat, planar state can only be used as a non-structural infill,” Parreño told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) in an interview. “When expanded to a greater depth, glass acquires multiple properties that expand its role beyond that of a transparent or translucent infill. If we attend to some of these properties—which are not fully exploited when glass is presented in its planar state—we can begin to foresee another type of depth between the two sides of the material.” Parreño’s prototypes are primarily interested in exploiting the material’s compressive strength, along with producing new tactile and visual effects.
  • Facade Manufacturer Shouguang Jingmei Glass Product Co.,Ltd
  • Architects Cristina Parreño Architecture
  • Facade Installer Cristina Parreño Architecture with Turner Construction Special Projects Division (Tower Series assembly)
  • Facade Consultants Paul Kassabian, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (structural engineer)
  • Location Boston, MA
  • Date of Completion 2014-15
  • System clear sheet glass with UV-cured bonding agent
  • Products Glaverbel glass by Shouguang Jingmei; UV-cured adhesive by Loctite
  • Photos John Horner, Jane Messinger (Courtesy Cristina Parreño Archtiecture)
One of the main challenges of the project has been developing new working techniques to manage the fragility of the panes during fabrication. This fragility provides only small tolerances for assembly that in turn demand a high degree of precision. Parreño’s assemblies involve bonding individual profiles of glass together using a high-performance bonding agent activated by UV light. The compound cures thin and transparent, allowing for maximum visibility between panes. Parreño says this construction system permits the glass to fully express its own visual and structural capacities, but it makes the construction process far more labor intensive. The Tectonics of Transparency prototypes are a material translation of well-known concrete and brick structures to glass, as MVRDV recently developed for their Amsterdam Chanel store project. Parreño said MVRDV’s project demonstrates similar interests to hers, and that the interest of other architects in challenging the conventional use of glass “thickens the plot for discussions.” Parreño’s Tower Series reinterprets Uruguayan brick water towers built by Eladio Dieste, while her Shelter Series reinterprets Felix Candela’s ruled Mexican concrete surface structures. Beyond explorations into the structural capacity of glass, Parreño also relates to the qualities of light inherent through assembly techniques. She cites REX’s fluted facade as a reinvented curtain wall of curved panels that “catch light in unexpected angles, throwing distorted reflections back at the viewer.” These visual effects are a key influencer of Parreño’s Tectonics of Transparency: “By exploring the ability of glass to modulate light through its enhanced translucency, variable transparency, opacity and the greater or lesser internal reflection of external light.” Parreño says her next steps are to continue to “scale up” the prototypes, experimenting with how glass can move beyond the curtain wall. “The translation of these prototypes and small pavilions to a larger and more architectural scale is something that I am definitely interested in as the next step forward.”
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Will the rise of self-driving vehicles signal the death of the traffic light?

The dawn of self driving cars promises to be an exciting new era for transport. However, what exactly lies ahead is still up for debate. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETHZ), and the Italian National Research Council (CNR) have outlined how traffic signals could be rendered obsolete if automated vehicles get their way. The development is known as "slot-based intersections," and if realized, would significantly reduce queuing, delays, and pollution. If evidence from any science fiction movie is anything to go by, it's that humans have very little trust in automated technology. It's easy to picture: panic as your self-driving car appears to be careering into another, only to miss by a a tiny margin, all perfectly predicted by an automated system of course. That may be an exaggeration, but Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and his team have produced a model that shows cars zipping through a four-way intersection both without stopping or slowing down and remaining unscathed. “Traffic intersections are particularly complex spaces, because you have two flows of traffic competing for the same piece of real estate,” he said in a press release regarding the study, published in detail here. “But a slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic level to the vehicle level. Ultimately, it’s a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them.” Trust in such a system would have to be high. Communication between cars would have to be flawless and safety measures for failure would also have to be in place. That said, if implemented, the system would speed up journey time and also reduce pollution by cutting down on the time spent idle at traffic signals. Of course, signal-less interchanges already exist, they're called roundabouts. But the possibility for human error (and hence collisions) still exists in the roundabout, along with the need to give way to others.
"Slot-based intersections are similar to slot-based management systems used for air-traffic control," say the team. "Upon approaching an intersection, a vehicle automatically contacts a traffic management system to request access. Each self-driving vehicle is then assigned an individualized time or “slot” to enter the intersection." Speed limits could also change. If a perfect system can plot every movement, why not travel at the fastest, yet safest, possible speed? This is just one of the questions arising as self-driving cars become more and more likely to enter our lives. Would car lanes also be made thinner? Vehicles won't be making mistakes so why not cram as many in as we can and maximize efficiency? In terms of having a central traffic organizing system, getting different car manufacturers to be completely open with each other is another major bridge that would need to be crossed. And as for the more pressing issue of automated vehicles' interaction with humans, MIT's Senseable City Lab responds by saying: "slot-based intersections are flexible and can easily accommodate pedestrian and bicycle crossing with vehicular traffic."
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The World’s Largest Real Estate and Development Conference Has A Growing North American Contingent

MIPIM, the world's largest and most important real estate and development conference, attracts nearly 25,000 people to Cannes in the south of France every year. Like the Venice Biennale and the Saloni del Mobile in Milan, there are architects from around the world in attendance. However, there's also a small-but-growing group of influential designers from North America. Dutch architect Ben van Berkel and Berlin-based designer Jürgen Mayer H. both attend because they can meet with dozens of potential clients, both private and civic, in a single four day period. Some architects attend as members of development teams looking for investors; others come on their own to walk through the various pavilions and speak with groups seeking designers. There are pavilions sponsored by scores of moderately-sized cities (Lyon, Brussels, Palermo, etc.) and larger ones (Paris, Mexico City, Lagos etc.), all looking for investors and sometimes architects for their projects. For example, London and Istanbul's pavilions are enormous efforts sponsored by governments and development offices. Their tents feature large wooden models of their city that highlight development sites. A meeting in Cannes with the Turinese architect and engineer Carlo Ratti, Partner of CRA architects and Director of the MIT Senseabile lab, was instructive of why designers attend MIPIM. He took the opportunity to launch and promote a project he calls The Mile, a design for a one-mile high tower and observation decks that he developed with the German engineering firm schlaich Bergermann partners and British digital design studio Atmos. Ratti didn't design the one-mile high project with a residential or commercial business model in mind. Rather, it's a tourist-oriented structure like Paris’ Tour Eiffel or The London Eye. A structure twice as high as the next tallest building in the world, The Mile is conceived a structural, 20-meter-wide shaft “kept in compression and secured through a net of pre-stressed cables.” A series of orbiting capsules will allow visitors to gradually ascend to the top, enjoying the spectacular panorama at different speeds and approaches. These capsules can host meetings, dinners, concerts, or even swimming pools, thereby allowing people to inhabit the sky in unprecedented ways. These spaces will be equipped with open-air Virtual Reality screens that will create unique interactions with visitors' 360-degree view of the landscape. Aloft in the sky and unencumbered by VR headsets, you can see the city as is—or could be. From base to apex, the lightweight structure will offer a natural ecosystem covered by greenery and inhabited by hundreds of animal species. The Mile will be criss-crossed with a delicate latticework of transportation lines. As Ratti said, take New York City’s Central Park, turn it vertically, and then after “rolling it and twirling it,” you get something like this. The Italian architect was able to get this proposal in front of cities looking for iconic structures, developers looking for potential buildings to anchor a project, and journalists. There is no other gathering of parties involved in urban development like it anywhere in the world.
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Aggregate knowledge: Scientists at MIT discover how concrete behaves on a molecular level, could spur material advances

Suffice to say, we certainly know how concrete behaves at structural level—the material has been dominating cities and skylines since Joseph Monier invented a reinforced concrete in 1889. But until now, how the material works on a microscopic level has eluded scientists. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have unearthed concrete's molecular properties, claiming their findings could lead to structural advances in the future. Traditionally, concrete uses a mixture of gravel, sand, cement, and water. In this case, a compound known as calcium-silicate-hydrate (CSH or cement hydrate) forms when the cement powder mixes with water. It essentially causes all the ingredients to solidify and become one. The phenomenon that has been baffling researchers many for years is whether concrete's molecular structure is comprised of continual bonds as found in stone and metal, or rather, as a sea of aggregate particle clumps bonded by (in the case of concrete) CSH. Researchers from MIT discovered in 2012 that during the first hour of the concrete mixing process, when CSH particles form, the size at which they form is apparently random and "not in homogenous spheres." As a result, such "diversity in the size of the nanoscale units leads to a denser, disorderly packing of the particles, which corresponds to stronger cement paste." However, the question regarding whether concrete was "considered a continuous matrix or an assembly of discrete particles" still remained. Predictably, the answer was "a bit of both." In a press release, Roland Pellenq, a senior research scientist in MIT’s department of civil and environmental engineering explained that the particle distribution facilitated almost every gap in the molecular structure to be filled by even smaller grains. This seemingly iterative process continued to the extent that Pellenq and his peers could approximate the material as a continuous solid. “Those grains are in a very strong interaction at the mesoscale,” said Pollenq. “You can always find a smaller grain to fit in between [the larger grains, hence] you can see it as a continuous material.” Pollenq did however, conclude his findings by stating that concrete could never be considered a true continuous material. This is due to the fact that grains within the CSH, unlike those in metal or stone, cannot reach a resting state of minimum energy. In other words, larger molecules can cause solid concrete to "creep" which makes the material susceptible to cracking and degradation over time. "Both views are correct, in some sense,” Pellenq concluded.
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MIT’s new ‘MultiFab’ 3D printer breakthrough capable of molding 10 materials at once

Soon, we might have 3D copy machines. Using powerful new technology, MIT's latest 3D printer boasts, according to Russia Today, almost "human-free usability" which allows it to print "ready to use" objects comprising of up to ten different materials. The development is being described by Gizmodo as a "giant leap" towards real-life replication as 3D printers strive for the ultimate goal of being able to produce functioning electronic parts. Already printers are capable of producing electronic circuits, however, MIT's printer named 'MultiFab' (echoing the name of the 'MultiVac' super-computer in Isaac Asimov's science fiction novel, The Last Question) is able to integrate these circuits into actual electronic components. This simplification of the manufacturing process hints at a future where a press of a button will be enough to produce such electronic mechanisms. A 3D scanner is also incorporated into the printer which allows the device to print onto existing components. This could mean that making future modifications to your smartphone, for example, is a very real possibility. Another advantage of this feature is that the printing process can be almost hands free. The scanner works in real time to make sure everything is aligned, telling the printer to make changes if necessary. In a release by the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at MIT, the research team has described their printer as, "high-resolution, low-cost, extensible, and modular."  Advocating its possible use in education they also said that "students and teachers will be able to create complex mathematical figures, physics sets, lens systems, and anatomical models."
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Furniture with its own Mind: Researchers at MIT Create Self-Assembling Chair

Scientists at MIT dream of autonomous assembly lines that are free of machinery, human intervention, or fossil fuel expenditure—and still run 24/7. Researchers at the Self-Assembly Lab recently debuted a chair that assembled itself in a water tank over a period of seven hours. Each of the six component parts is embedded with a magnet and like an enzyme or jigsaw piece, each one has a unique connection point for hooking on to the others, thus dictating the final form. The assembly process, however, is anything but controlled. Fans at the bottom of the tank generate turbulence in the water, jostling the pieces and encouraging a series of trial-and-error collisions which eventually sees complementary pieces latch onto one another. “At close proximity, each piece should easily connect with its corresponding component but never with another one,” Bailey Zuniga, a student who led the research, told Wired. Self-assembly means finding a balance between randomness and control. One ultimate goal is self-repairing infrastructure, but too much leeway could make it very difficult to achieve a desired final form. Before vowing to never shell out another extortionate check for furniture delivery and installation, note that the chair is a mere six inches tall. A human-sized chair is in the pipeline as part of the Fluid Assembly Furniture project led by Skylar Tibbit. At present, the team is amassing quantitative data to better understand material properties and why certain shapes work better than others. “Finding a way to make the pieces more interchangeable would increase the chances of the pieces finding their matches,” said Zuniga. Other recent forays into self-assembling modules is the Aerial Assemblies project, in which 36-inch helium-filled balloons with fiberglass frames self-configure into a structural lattice in mid-air.
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Digital Incan Masonry by Matter Design

Architects update pre-Columbian building method with modern tools and materials.

Matter Design's latest installation, Round Room (on display at MIT's Keller Gallery last fall) was born of a "marriage" between two of the firm's ongoing interests, explained co-founder Brandon Clifford. First, Clifford and partner Wes McGee had long hoped to work with Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC). Clifford, moreover, had been impressed during a trip to Cuzco by the Incan wedge method of masonry construction, in which precisely-carved stones are aligned on their front face, then backfilled with mortar. "This seemed like a tremendously rational way of building," he said. "Ever since then we had been wanting to do a project that translates that process into digital design." With Round Room, designed and fabricated in cooperation with Quarra Stone, Matter Design did just that. Though inspired by pre-Columbian building practices, the installation firmly situates the wedge method in the digital age. Clifford and McGee began by building a rough prototype, a six-component section resembling a half-dome. "We knew that we were going to build something that was round," said Clifford. "Not a sphere, but something that has slow changes in geometry." By focusing on curved spaces, the designers were already pushing the limits of the wedge method, historically limited to two-dimensional applications. With information gleaned from their prototyping session—including the general dimensions of individual units—they worked through a series of models in Grasshopper and Kangaroo, leaning on calculations developed for an earlier project, La Voûte de LeFevre. Clifford and McGee also visited Quarra Stone's Wisconsin facility. The trip "allowed us to get a feeling for where they were going to have problems with the geometry, and make changes," said McGee. "We were able to step in as consultant with respect to applying their tools."
  • Fabricator Quarra Stone
  • Designers Matter Design
  • Location Cambridge, MA
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material AAC, plaster
  • Process prototyping, Grasshopper, Kangaroo, robotic carving, shaving, plastering
Using a water-fed robotic arm, Quarra Stone cut the AAC components—no simple feat. "One critical translation from the Incan technique was the fact that the front edge aligns, but the backwards taper allows for mortar to be packed in," explained McGee. "[The blocks] are machined on five sides." Round Room's components were then shipped to Cambridge and assembled on site by a team of students, including Myung Duk Chung, Sixto Cordero, Patrick Evan Little, Chris Martin, Dave Miranowski, David Moses, Alexis Sablone, and Luisel Mayas. (Austin Smith also assisted throughout the project; Simpson Gumpertz & Heger acted as structural consultants.) The installation team placed the blocks, used scrapers to remove any excess AAC from the front (interior) edge, then piped plaster into the wedge-shaped gap on the back (exterior) side. "Though it was a digital fabrication process, the assembly was quite a craft," observed Clifford. The collaboration with Quarra Stone was a first for Matter Design, which had both designed and built all of its earlier projects. "It was beneficial for us to understand the nuances of what they had to deal with on a daily basis," said Clifford. In fact, the relationship was so successful that Clifford and McGee are continuing it, with a fellowship that will send two researchers to the Wisconsin fabricators. "It's an area we're going to continue working in pretty heavily," said McGee. "It's an opportunity to interrogate this information exchange between designers and fabricators at a higher level."
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Rebuild By Design> MIT’s Plan to Save New Jersey and Metropolitan New York

In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Hurricane Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, here is a closer look at each of the final ten proposals, beginning with the team led by MIT. The New Meadowlands plan—by MIT, ZUS, and Urbanisten—aims to protect New Jersey and Metropolitan New York from future storms, and increase development at the same time. Using existing marshlands, the team proposes Meadowpark—a new public space that can provide a natural barrier against rising sea levels and storms. This park, and specifically its berms, will mitigate storm surge and reduce flooding. Surrounding Meadowpark is Meadowband, a ring of public space and bus-rapid transit routes that separates the marshland from proposed development. "The park and the band protect existing development areas," explained the team. "In order to be worthy of federal investment, it is imperative to use land more intensively. We propose shifting land-use zoning from suburban (single story, freestanding, open-space parking around structure) to more urban."
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Adele Naudé Santos Stepping Down as Dean at MIT

Add one more opening to the list of dean, director, and curator positions that need to be filled. Adele Naudé Santos is stepping down as dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT after 10 years at the helm. During her time as dean, Santos consolidated the school from six locations to improve faculty interactions. She hired more than 40 percent of the current faculty and has also overseen a dramatic increase in applications for all the school's programs. She will return to the faculty as a professor of architecture and urban planning. MIT President L. Rafael Reif praised Santos in a statement: “I arrived at MIT just as the Media Lab was taking off,” he said. “In the 30 years since, the School of Architecture and Planning has continually renewed itself to stay on the cutting edge. Dean Santos brought to the role her considerable gifts as an architect and administrator, but we will always be most grateful for her remarkable eye for talent."
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MIT Media Lab Creates a Digital Interface That Reaches Into the Real World

Do you dream of a world in which your touch-screen could touch back? Where you can shape digital models with your hands, physically reach out to friends hundreds of miles away, and once again tangibly interact with the people and objects around you? The Tangible Media Group at MIT’s Media Lab has begun to probe this future of 3D interactive interfaces with their latest creation: inFORM. Functioning similarly to the metal pinscreen toy, inFORM combines a state-of-the-art table-mounted “screen” of 900 movable “pixels,” a hacked Microsoft Kinect, projector, and nearby computer to transmit palpable content back-and-forth between the digital and physical realms. Created by Daniel Leithinger, Sean Follmer, Alex Olwai, Akimitsue Hogge and Hiroshi Ishii, the breakthrough project allows for real-time user interaction with material objects and physicalized digital data, offering a glimpse into the exciting world of user interfaces that lie beyond the depthless, black touch-screens and skeuomorphic displays of today. As this technology progresses beyond inFORM’s simple 30x30 display, one could imagine a wealth of emerging applications, from remote medical operations to malleable, tactile architectural renderings, that may effectively unhinge the divide between virtual and corporeal space.