Collaborative installation translates sound into motion.When Brooklyn-based design and fabrication studio The Principals began collaborating with musician Dev Hynes on Ancient Chaos, a sound reactive installation commissioned by speaker company Sonos, they had only a vague sense of the project's goals. "The general concept was that we wanted to create an architecture that was fluid like sound, and to create sounds that were architectural," said co-founder Seskunas. "We wanted to have an installation that was both of those things but neither—a very ephemeral, nebulous concept of what sound and architecture could be." Then Seskunas went surfing with a friend, and, in between sets, found himself mesmerized by the ever-changing play of sunlight on the ocean. "Could we create an architecture that had this quality to it?" he questioned. Constructed from 6,000 individual pieces of Mylar set in motion by high-powered stepper motors, Ancient Chaos answers Seskunas' question in the affirmative. The installation, which debuted at New York's Neuehouse last year, is a moving meditation on the relationship between sound and space. Over the course of a two-month ideas exchange with Hynes, who composed an original piece for the installation and performed at its opening, The Principals started by sketching and creating photo collages of bodies of water. They then revisited a mechanical system developed for an earlier project, which involved assembling flat pieces of paper into an accordion panel. When suspended and set in motion, the panel created gradient waves and apertures that closed and opened. But while the primary focus of the earlier installation had been the apertures, for Ancient Chaos "we wanted to focus on the surface quality [of the form], and to highlight different two-dimensional curvatures," said Seskunas. They also swapped out the paper for silver-coated Mylar, which—while difficult to obtain in the quantities and thickness the designers required—offered an intriguing combination of reflectiveness and stiffness. Site constraints (Neuehouse is a private club, to which the designers had only limited access) required The Principals to design and build a free-standing aluminum support system for the 8-foot by 36-foot canopy. Working in Rhino and Autodesk Inventor, "we created a pretty intricate structure," said Seskunas. "We had a complicated digital model for each part." They unitized the Mylar form into 4-foot by 8-foot panels, each of which was assembled from thousands of die-cut Mylar pieces and transparent Popco fasteners. To translate Hynes' music into motion, The Principals attached a series of stepper motors to the top of the installation. The motors are in turn connected to a frequency analyzer that splits the sound into seven frequencies. When a particular frequency occurs, a custom program directs motors on the corresponding area of the canopy to oscillate. A boom mic picks up ambient sound, which is likewise split and transformed into directions for the stepper motors. "You see the speed and oscillations" across the installation, said Seskunas. "It pulls apart the threads of the sound, and manifests them in movement." One of the most striking features of the installation (which has since been relocated to Sonos' permanent studio in Los Angeles) is also one of the less choreographed. Static lights above the moving canopy shine down through the transparent acrylic fasteners to create an effect not unlike that Seskunas witnessed from his surfboard. "It's beautiful how they transmit light," he said of the fasteners. "We were really excited about that."
Posts tagged with "sound":
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. 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.”
A recently-launched website offers a new way of seeing some of New York's most iconic structures: through sound. SOUNDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE is a collaboration between the Institute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities and the Department of Architecture at the University of Virginia. The project uses sound culled from the interiors of the city's buildings to generate psychedelic, screensaver-esque animations. Visitors are greeted by a virtual "sound street," currently occupied by the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, the Seagram Building, the Guggenheim, and Grand Central Terminal. Selecting one of the elevations triggers an animation that visualizes a 60-second sound clip deemed to be characteristic of the aural experience of the given space. These animations are accompanied by new musical compositions that riff on the initial recordings and analytical diagrams of each site. The project, headed by UVA professor Karen Van Lengen, has plans to add additional buildings as it develops.
If New York is the city that never sleeps, how come it took us so long to get around to hosting our own Nuit Blanche (French for "Sleepless Night")? The global all-night festival of arts began in Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg way back in 1997, and has spread around the world in the years since. This Saturday, October 2, starting at 7:00 p.m., Brooklyn will host our city's first Nuit Blanche, rechristened "Bring to Light" by local organizers DoTank:Brooklyn and producers Furnace Media. Over 50 artists and performers will converge on Greenpoint's Oak St. between Franklin St. and the East River, taking over street corners, galleries, vacant lots, and rooftops to showcase their work. Although the range of media is broad -- some visual, some performative, some interactive -- the common threads running through them are light and sound. Among the highlights are Kant Smith's Small Explosion, a fiery cloud, a trompe-l'oeuil oil painting brought to life with rear illumination. Roselyn Anderson's Giant Puppet in His Natural Habitat is an installation comprising a giant puppet, three sculptures of illuminated meat, and a fluttering crowd of animatronic birds. And for ten percussive minutes, Tom Peyton enlists the help of a dozen drummers to turn Oak Street's scaffolding into a musical instrument. The event is free and open to the public; more info here.