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Responsive and Adaptive Architecture
It is no secret that the world is evolving at an astonishing pace and everything is changing very fast. Modern trends are actually racing with each other and technology is developing constantly bringing the everyday user new services to simplify their daily routine. However, the built environment cannot be replaced as quickly as a laptop or a phone, for example. Architecture is about reflecting on the world and expressing it through the urban landscape that we create. Architecture is a tool to preserve historical events, periods, stages of development. But what if it is actually able to keep up with the developing world around it and reflect it all the time? What if just by looking at a series of buildings you are able to experience an ongoing event somewhere else, or the building changes shape to tell you to avoid traffic. Architecture is an expression but what if it is able to respond to current events and be informative, artistic or any kind of way to reflect upon its surroundings on a small or wider scale. It would actually not only shape the environment but also take part in the actions and be involved in the communication process – adapting itself to the vibrancy and the events.
Since I am interested in the latest trends and technological advancements I keep track of several internet sources which publish news related to this topic. However most of them are aimed at the entertainment business and digital development, taking the level of gaming and digital enhancements to the next stage. I was curious if the technology they develop for multimedia can in a way be combined with an architectural design which would react to its surroundings. By doing so the barrier between the digital space and the physical realm would be broken. The world created by such a building would be adaptive and the user will be able to experience its presence and its behavior as a result of his personal actions. My university project during the first term was a perfect opportunity to develop my idea. My aim is to create a space (or series of spaces) that could drastically change and interact with the inhabitants and adapt the environment according to real time events. Achieving this will put the user into something more than a digital simulation allowing him to experience a new kind of architecture, one that responds to his presence.
Current projects involved in responsive architecture took me to the works of Cantoni and Crescenti who have developed several installations which respond to real-time human activity and the presence of the people. They actually create structures, not only digital response on a screen or floor, that change according to people`s movement, weight, speed and direction. Mirror is a project about a reflective and very flexible sheet of metal which either expands or detracts based on the user`s distance to itself. It is these first simple steps into changing the environment that I am looking at and how they can be implemented both in the interior and exterior of a building and how it can be further developed. Other projects include a floor which moves according to where you are, and a tilting tunnel which leans to counteract a person`s weight thus responding first hand to what is going on around it on a mechanical level.
The second kind of projects I am looking at is the entertainment development in terms of projection mapping and augmented reality. Both are aiming to bring the users a new level in interaction between a digital world and the physical world almost giving us a new kind of media to enjoy.
“Demand it. Welcome it. Let it in. The Third Era of Visual Art is gonna be great.” (Matt Pearson, “Generative Art: A Practical Guide”).
The third era of visual arts brings us the moment of now. Not something that has been created in the past to be used or viewed in the future in only one particular way. The events are happening now, and the response is real but instead of being played out only in a virtual reality, the user becomes part of it in the physical world.
The development of projection mapping is something I would like to look at first. Since Sony developed the Move, handheld motion tracker, for their console many developers have tried to use it to a greater potential than just playing games on it. What it does is it is being tracked by a camera located in the console and it also sends data by detecting which way it is being moved, rotated etc. However, its use has been driven into a different direction of the entertainment business. In the past projection mapping was only available from a static position. The project which enabled it to be dynamic is called “Most Insane Immersive Movie Experience Ever”. Attaching a motion tracker to the camera, using a 3D mapping of the area and a bit of software to control the projection itself to be adjusted to the perspective of the camera, has enabled to transform one room with normal furniture into a series of spaces such as a digital dimension, a cityscape and a sea, submerging the people into an amazing experience like non other so far.
My project involves creating a space which can simulate an environment and, by projection and movement, highlight contrasting to the landscape factors. I call it The Screen. The idea comes from studying a forest area that is going to have a new railway system constructed through it and this intervention`s purpose is to highlight the disturbance being caused during and after construction. The intervention is a big viewing space, without the limitation of being a room, so it can be interactive and re-arrangeable. The idea is that footage from the outside is being played in an interactive way on the inside by having a 360 projection, much like a planetarium. The structure resembles a big umbrella which wraps around the viewers which also gives the illusion that the intervention is floating. This intervention aims to represent the existing environment on the outside in to the viewers inside, by directly showing them what it is designed to highlight – disruption in the natural landscape caused by built environment.
The core tower will hold will hold the robotic arms that extend and wrap the space and all the projectors which are aimed at the flexible membrane used for the screen. At the end of the robotic arms there will be a grid which will hold small pistons which will be interacting with the screen and creating the physical movement which will be synchronized with the projection. All the processing units, computers and power will be fitted in the base of the structure. Video feed will be provided from the top of the intervention tower where a 360 panoramic video feed will be captured. This intervention is the first step to creating a responsive environment and to designing a prototype for a bigger more developed version to follow. All the key elements listed above can be combined together to create a new type of built form, one which will communicate with its inhabitants. Future developments of this can be introduced into the entertainment business as a new form of gaming experience, where the physical environment would change drastically; it could be introduced into art, exhibitions; training and simulation. This could potentially open the door to a new kind of built environment, one that has multiple uses in a single space and could eventually become everything one wants it to be.