Skip navigation

Kinetic architecture (1/3)

fLUX, Binary Waves – Lab[au]


Another great project by LAb[au], “fLUX binary waves” is an urban and cybernetic installation based on the measuring of infrastructural ( passengers, cars…) and communicational ( electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones, radio…) flows and their transposition into luminous, sonic and kinetic rules.



This relation between the installation and the urban activity happens in real time and sets each person as an element of the installation, as a centre of the public realm. The installation fLUX, binary waves is constituted by a network of 32 rotating and luminous panels of 3 meter-high and 60 centimetres wide, placed every 3 meters to form a kinetic wall.

The panels rotate around their vertical axis, and have a black reflective surface on one side, the other being plain mat white. Their rotation is controlled by microprocessors, allowing to determine precisely the rotation speed and angle, while their networking allows to synchronise the movement of the 32 panels.


The microprocessors are connected to infrared sensors, capturing the surrounding infrastructural flows, defining the frequency and amplitude of the rotation. According to this set up, each impulse is transmitted from one panel to the other, describing visual waves running from one side of the installation to the other, and then bouncing back while progressively loosing oscillation. All these principles relate the ‘micro-events’ happening in the area to a unified play of light, colours and sounds directly derived from the rhythm of the city flows.


As such, the installation proposes an urban sign having as subject the ‘urban’ and as message to be a catalyst of urbanity via the transcription of urban flows in a contemporary play of kinetics, lights and sound.

Shih Chieh Huang


Installation artist Shih Chieh Huang transforms spaces with everyday objects. His most recent project “EX-I-09″ currently on show at the Beall Center for Art + Technology focuses on exploring the unusual evolutionary adaptations undertaken by creatures that reside in inhospitable conditions.


Huang creates analogous ecosystems made from common, everyday objects. “I source my wholly synthetic materials from the mundane objects that comprise our modern existence: household appliances, zip ties, water tubes, lights, computer parts, motorized toys and the like. The objects are dissected and disassembled as needed and reconstructed into experimental primitive organisms that reside on the fringes of evolutionary transformation: computer cooling fans are repurposed for locomotion; Tupperware serves as a skeletal framework; guitar tuner rewired to detect sound; and automatic night lights become a sensory input. ”


The exhibition is on till June 6th 2009

Choe U Ram – Anima Machines


Korean artist, Choe U Ram, creates massive, precision engineered sculptures with an eerie organic feel. He uses cut and polished metals, machinery and electronics to create kinetic sculptures inspired by sea creatures and plant life.


Exploring the boundaries of archeological discovery and developmental morphology, Choe’s explanations and Latin titles for these creations follow the linguistic traditions of scientific nomenclature.


Telling stories using gestural transformation and the tracing of imagined evolutionary stages, these pieces take on the silhouette of actual life forms, as intricate automata express a refined delicacy and weightlessness.


Unexpected and fantastical, Choe’s kinetic simulations cyclically breathe with movement that recalls aquatic propulsion, flight and ritualistic courtship displays.


Joe Gilbertson and Art+Com


About once every couple of months one of my students sends me a video of ART+COM’s mechatronic installation, made up of 714 metal balls for the BMW museum. ART+COM describe it as “a spatial translation of a design process. Seemingly weightless and guided solely by the power of the mind, the sculpture moves through a cycle of free abstractions and typical BMW vehicle forms.”

I just came accross the work of Joe Gilbertsons formally similar kinetic installation and thought I’d place the two side by side. While one is majestic in its use of precision motors and software systems, there is something equally majestic in Gilbertson’s use of simple motors and cranks.

Daniel Chadwick – Kinetic Solar Systems


Daniel Chadwick’s principal works are mobiles made up of “Kinetic Solar Systems” that revolve using tiny solar-powered motors to propel perfectly balanced discs.

Video of Solar Powered Mobiles

Daniel Chadwick

Beacon – Cinimod Studio & Chris O’Shea

‘Beacon’, by Chris O’Shea & Cinimod Studio is a kinetic light installation with a mind of its own. An array of emergency beacon lights interacts with visitors, tracking their movement through the space, creating an immersive and playful experience.


The installation exploits a transfer of technologies from existing industrial products. The beacon lights have had their internal parts replaced with custom hardware, enabling the rotation of the reflector and lamp brightness to be individually controlled. Thermal imaging cameras have been adapted to track the participants’ movement through the space.


‘Beacon’ is orchestrated in real-time by a bespoke control system, which uses tracking information from the cameras to coordinate an interactive and highly responsive behavior.

Wall of Eyes – Adrian Baynes


Wall of Eyes by Adrian Baynes is an interactive public artwork, comprising of 225 mannequin eyes, which follow the viewer through space.

Its just one of the kinetic installations showing for the first time at Kinetica Art Fair opening today (Friday 27/02/09). More information to follow but if your about London this weekend, it looks worth a visit.

VIDA 11.0 Art and Artifical Life

I have recently come back from Madrid where I was exhibiting my piece Performative Ecologies at VIDA 11.0 alongside some great installations from Philip Beesley & Rob Gorbet, Chico MacMurtie, Jed Berk, Chris Sugrue and Damian Stewart. With the kind help of my brother Ronan, we have made a small film of the exhibition which you can see above. Regine on wmmna has more detailed coverage of the exhibition.

Interactive Architecture has been quiet for the past 6 months mainly due to taking on a new teaching position at the Bartlett School of Architecture’s Adaptive Architecture and Computation Masters. More about this in the near future but for now all I’ll say is that my plan is to get blogging back into my weekly routine so if anyone has any interesting suggestions for new articles please let me know.

Spinning Streetlights

wind powered streetlights

Here’s an interesting wind powered streetlight from the Panasonic Center in Tokyo that I found on hyperexperience blog run by Leonardo Bonanni of MediaLab. I’m a big fan of using these Vertical Axis Wind Turbines for integrating into urban skylines when traditional propellers often seem too dramatic.

Troika – Cloud


This seems to have spread all over the design and architecture blogs. Cloud by Troika is a beautiful object and really superb piece of engineering, especially with its mix of high tech digital control and nostalgic low tech actuation.

There’s a nice video here from youtube and Chris O’Shea has some details on pixelsumo blog which includes some behind the scenes images of the custom software used on the project.


David Rokeby – Cloud


One project that caught my eye from Regine’s posts covering the VIDA awards was David Rokeby’s Cloud Installation currently suspended in the Great Hall at the Ontario Science Centre. One hundred identical sculptural elements, arranged in ten by ten grid, are rotated at slightly differing speeds by computer-controlled motors. The elements slowly shift in and out of synchronization. When the motors are just out of sync, huge waves ripple across the space. When completely in sync, the work appears almost solid then suddenly almost invisible. When far out of sync, the sculptural elements float in apparent chaos. Cloud creates constantly shifting fields and patterns in the space of the Great Hall, playing with the tension between chaos and order, between scientific theory and human experience, and between objectivity and subjectivity.

Kengo Kuma – Weak Architecture

In search of flexible buildings – Kengo Kuma uses the term “weak architecture”. His teahouse does not rise up from the ground as a fixed wooden construction, but unfolds as an airborne ephemeral structure. When a ventilation system is activated, the teahouse swells into shape like a white textile blossom. In its interior, comprising a surface of approximately twenty square metres, are nine tatami mats, an electric stove for the water kettle, and a preparation room.

Integrated LED technology allows the use of the teahouse at night; the interior can be heated by way of the membrane. The Teehouse of Kengo Kuma is situated in the garden of Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt.

Performative Ecologies – Ruairi Glynn

Performative Ecologies Film 15Mb
Development of Performative Ecologies Film 25Mb

Well here’s whats been keeping me busy these past months. I got the opportunity to share my most recent collection of responsive environments, collectively called “Performative Ecologies” at the We Love Technology conference a couple of days ago and now I’ve finally found the time to distill a considerable amount of  ideas and speculative installations into something manageable to read along with a short film about the culmination of the work as well as a longer film about the development of the project.

Some of the questions at the center of my work are: Fundamentally, what is interactivity? How can we build environments that are interactive as apposed to reactive? What does an interactive architecture offer us over a reactive architecture? What does interactive architecture offer us over the lifetime of the buildings and wider landscape we inhabit? These questions go back much further than this particular project, and in fact,  were the reason I started this blog in the first place.

If I was to try and sum it up in a sentence, it is fundamentally about giving our architecture the ability to enter into dialog with us, rather than simply respond with fixed behaviours to fixed commands from us, to learm from its experiences and adapt its behaviours, to suggest new spatial configurations and see how we respond. Very often I find that so called ‘interactive environments’ rarely enable the architecture to negotiate its behaviours , but rather follow pre-choreographed routines when triggered. More broadly, a great deal of misuse of the term ‘interactive’ is common in art, design and architectural discourse and I believe that this has diluted its true meaning and huge potential. My description of “Performative Ecologies” should reveal some of the ideas I’ve developed, and present where I think the most interesting possibilities exist. Please let me know what you think.

Full description of Project

David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang of ‘The Living’ Architects presented their recent work at the Interactive Architecture event I organised at Eyebeam last month. They have just released 2 lovely little books called ‘Life Size‘ 1 & 2 which explore the possibility of creating open source design processes. The first volume of Life Size includes ‘DIY directions for making a responsive kinetic system, an energy self-sufficient display, and a collapsible framing structure out of weak materials.’ & the second volume of this series includes essays by Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Livia Corona, Holly Kretschmar, Seth Mnookin, William Wu and SISYPHUS.

Whats most interesting for me about David and Soo-ins work is their methodology they call “flash research,” which they define as an architectural research project with a budget under $1000 and a ninety-day timeline, expected to result in a fully functioning, 1:1 scale prototype. To me this seems a challenging approach that forces you to consider low tech solutions rather than spending a fortune on answering problems often with unsustainable answers.

When interviewed by Metropolis Magazine David discussed how each Flash Research project is driven by a specific query. “The initial question for Living Glass was: What if architecture responded to you?” Benjamin says. “ We asked, What if good architecture and bottom-line development were the same thing?” Rather than simply creating computer models, they decided that to prove their solution they would need to test it, down to the exact thickness of the plywood or joint necessary for a design to be successful.

David and Soo-in run a graduate class at Columbia Architecture school where with their students, they continue to experiment with these ideas of rapid experimentation often in the context of responsive & kinetic spatial design. Check out their website where you can find out more about their projects such as living River Glow, a network of pods that act as an interface between the water quality of the river and local inhabitants awareness of environmental conditions and Living Glass, a silent transforming and transparent surface that responds to inhabitants proximity.

SplineGraft – Krets

The SplineGraft project sets up a reactive environment in which sound dampening panels are continuously reshaped by a network of actuating devices, triggered by user movement. The panels are grafted into an existing environment, supported by structural racks allowing a range of different configurations. The SplineGraft can be set in different overall shapes independent of its behavior. The different parts are grafted onto each other; the profiled polyurethane panels are articulated by the configuration of the structural racks. The texture of this primary form is reshaped in real time by the control system integrated in the structural racks; a continuous form finding process with emergent patterning effects. In return, the spline ridges of the panels disperse these transformations horizontally.


The supporting structural racks are assembled from cnc-milled clear acrylic units, each integrating the actuating mechanisms, milled tracks for cabling and etched nickel brass conduits for inter-unit connectivity. The angle between each structural component can be set in five different positions, allowing the rack to be set at a convex or concave configuration, while maintaining conductive links between each part. Each rack of five units is controlled by a micro controller, steering the integrated actuators in the form of dual shape memory alloy wires. The central intelligence of each rack communicates with neighboring racks through radio.

SplineGraft behavior

The behaviour of the SplineGraft is controlled by a genetic algorithm; a computer program that simulates and compresses the geologically slow processes of natural selection to nanoseconds of computational time, in order to evolve solutions to specific problems. The Spline Graft algorithm is in this way trying to emit patterns of movement which stimulate occupation of the space it has been grafted in to. The matching of sensor readings and motor reactions in an apparently intentional way by the Spline Graft, transforms architecture into a cybernetic agent involved in the making and production of space.

SplineGraft materials

CNC-milled acrylic structural components with integrated wiring, machined polyurethane foam, etched nickel brass conductors, IR Movement Sensor, custom made PCB Cards, AVR Atmega8 Microcontrollers, Radio Modules, diverse electronic components, Flexinol® shape memory alloy actuators with protective Teflon tubes. SplineGraft was developed by Krets partners Pablo Miranda and Jonas Runberger. A full list of credits are available on the project website.

Gary Chang – Reconfigurable Living Spaces – Suitcase House Hotel

When Gary Chang spoke at the Simplicity Symposium at Ars Electronica curated by John Maeda last year, I was amazed by his life story growing up in Hong Kong in cramped conditions and how as an architect these experiences have shaped his interest in creating living and working spaces. Gary founded his company EDGE in 1994, and quickly gained a reputation for his dedication to work and award-winning multi-disciplinary designs. In 2003, the company was renamed EDGE Design Institute to better describe its mix of research-based and commercial activities.

His own appartment in Hong Kong which he once lived in with his whole family has now become a testing ground for him to experiment with ways of making reconfigurable spaces. Ultimate spatial flexibility is created through the multiple operations of the partitions. lighting. and mobile furniture. All the mundane necessities of bachelor life – books. CDs. clothing, pictures. stereo, videos are stacked on a chrome factory shelving system and hidden discreetly behind floating white curtains. the central space becomes the actual space for living, working, eating, sleeping, chatting, dressing and reading. Blue fluorescent tubes are carefully placed to wash the floor with an unearthly glow, while bright up-lighting articulates structural members. the main aperture of the front window offers views to the world beyond whether the actual view out of the window, or through the large scale movie screen to the fantasy world of hollywood, the real world of news, or the electronic world of internet.

The progression from this project was the ‘Suitcase House Hotel’ which the images above and below show

“Casting a question mark on the proverbial image of the house, Suitcase House Hotel attempts to rethink the nature of intimacy, privacy, spontaneity and flexibility. It is a simple demonstration of the desire for ultimate adaptability, in pursuit of a proscenium for infinite scenarios, a plane of sensual (p)leisure.”

“Imagine. In the daytime, a couple stays in the Suitcase. They could open up all the sliding partitions and enjoy a totally indoor open space with a dimension of 44 by 5 meter. Later in the day, they may open up a series of chamber according to their mood. Listen to the music in the Music chamber, read a book in the Library, meditate on the glazed floor. In the evening, when more guests arrive, the entire space turns into a lounge for party, celebration and other events. Rooms could then be gradually formulated when the night falls. A maximum of 7 guest rooms would be formed, which may accommodate up to 14 guests if the party goes late and they stay overnight.”

To blur the boundaries between House, Interior and Furniture, the entire structure and elements are monotonically cladded in timber inside and outside of the steel structure supported by and cantilevered out from the concrete base which house facilities including a pantry, maid’s quarter, boiler room and the sauna.

Moving Structure – Pavel Hladik

Video (8Mb)

I’m always interested in kinetic architecture so I was excited to hear about Pavel Hladik’s current project which investigates the possibility of material systems that could enable new forms of interactive environment. This project aims to find an elegant and more effective solution that can realize a controlled flexible environment. Pavel uses shape memory alloys (SMA) to create moving structures. The assembly represents an interactive structure with emergent properties. While still at a research stage, I look forward to seeing how it develops, here are more details on the project.

The material system consists of components (from spirals of SMA) that affect each other. The SMA used in the project is a material consisting of three metals: nickel, titanium, copper (NiTiCu). Because of the characteristic of the alloy the deformation could be up to 5%. The material features two structures: the Hot shape and the Cold shape. The cold shape structure is very soft and could be deformed under load pressure whereas the hot shape determines the final position of the structure. The final result is coded to the SMA during the process of its production.

Components are assembled to create an electrical circuit in addition with lightweight conductive fibers. NiTiCu spirals serve as resistance wires. Therefore they are gradually heated. The stability is provided by lock joints and Teflon foil which serves against buckling of the whole assembly. Moreover, there is a variant with strong strings that hold the particles together. Physical representative models tested the pattern as well as possibilities for assembling the position and size of components. The proposed system opens a discussion regarding the division of environments and space. The structure could be used as an “intelligent” interior division or an environmentally sensitive shelter.


The design of the moving structure takes advantage of the Teflon foils and Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs) NiTiCu. This structure is fixed to the ground or to another structure and is a part of the electrical circuit. The reactions controlled by computer are caused by the various circuits which connect the members of spirals of SMAs. The members are covered by the layered Teflon foil which is welded to the shape which is determined by the critical shape of the whole structure.

The structure changes the shape continuously between the two critical positions. The SMAs change the shape according to the transformation temperature caused by the current passage. The deformation is about 5% but using spirals multiply the result. The transformation temperature is 30°C and that is why the spirals are covered with the heat protection covering. Two conditions of the structure come out from the characteristics of NiTiCu – the cold shape and the hot shape. The structure could be packed and transported during the cold shape position. The spirals of SMAs are welded to the joints which are connected by the system of locks which provides the stiffness of the whole structure. The structure is multilevel, and allotted chains determine the critical shape.

Hydraulic Urinals

In an effort to handle its nighttime public urination problem, cities are considering installing urinals that disappear below street level during the day. Unlike the automated, self-cleaning toilets planned for Toronto and Vancouver, which are enclosed booths with doors that that automatically open after a set time period, the Urilift system is a two-meter high stainless steel cylinder with three alcoves, each with a urinal, and no doors By day, the Urilift is lowered below street level for a nice clean look. Then at night, an operator comes by with a remote and the Urilift hydraulically lifts to sidewalk level in about two minutes. Full Article via Slashdot



  1. Very nice article. thank for your sharing.cheer for next posts! 🙂

  2. Thank.

  3. Great post! I’ll subscribe right now wth my feedreader software!

  4. Hello. Great job. I did not expect this on a Wednesday. This is a great story. Thanks!

  5. im ***

  6. You you could change the webpage name Kinetic architecture (1/3) VANGUARQ to more catching for your blog post you create. I loved the post nevertheless.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By 2010 in review « VANGUARQ on 02 Jan 2011 at 4:02 am

    […] Kinetic architecture (1/3) June 2009 6 comments […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: