This project aims to develop a pavilion which spatial configuration respond to changing weather conditions, people flows and human communication, environmental factors and ecological considerations. Much like any other organism, our model for the pavilion can adapt in a variety of ways when parameters change. In a way, the kinetic pavilion sets out to redefine three-dimensional space by making it dependent on digital data.
The scale model of the pavilion was setup as a first step in testing necessary hardware and software configurations, try out different modes of interaction, and iterate through design ideas. Building on open source hardware, software and digital fabrication techniques it tries to extend the toolbox architectural design. The model itself is developed as an open and extendible structure that can respond to variety of input data.
We have established a framework in which various open source programs are directly aligned. The bundling of those software provides greater design flexibility, so the potential applications are also more extensive than those we have tested so far. As we use open udp protocol, other researchers can create their own script for the pavilion writing with a chosen software.
The development of an interactive architecture is a response to the demand for programmable, dynamic, flexible and adaptable environmental factors in the digital age. Interactivity has found its way into all aspects of public and private domain. In this context the emergence of interactivity in architecture manifests itself as an unstoppable evolution in architecture.
Architecture is often seen as something “absolute”, as the architect takes a clear position by, for example defining each space very precisely.
Our project shows that it doesn’t have to be the case. Coming up with new spatial features encourages us to link it to an optimal user participation. Architecture will evolve from a static entity to a dynamic and adaptable, emergent and alive environment. It will transform itself into a tool to express information in a dynamic way, in which the architect will determine the parameters.
1. Transformation based on weather conditions
The structure reacts differently in warm and cold climates.
In cold regions, the roof surface of the pavilion orients itself towards the sun in order to maximize energy efficiency. By letting the canopy rise in places where it can absorb large amounts of solar radiation, the building will be more voluminous in those places than in shady places. Also, the farther the metal beams of the roof structure extend, the more light can seep in between the canvas roof panels.
In warm regions the pavilion assumes an aerodynamic shape allowing the wind to ventilate the spaces under the canvas roof. The support beams are in this case not expanded, keeping the pavilion’s shell intact and thus block solar radiation. The bulging shape of the roof enlarges shaded areas and cools down the space underneath.
In constructing the scale model, we used Ecotect software and the Geco plug-in for Grasshopper, allowing the height of the pavilion to react to weather data. Using the Firefly plug-in, the processed data are then sent to Arduino and the motors.
2. Transformation based on human movement
The architecture also reacts to people flows. The roof reacts to the dynamics of movements and constantly transforms itself based on the paths along which people move. This results in a direct interaction between people walking around and their perception of the surrounding space.
To illustrate this principle in our scale model, we use an iPad that tracks finger movement on its touch screen as if it were the path covered by a person walking around. We use OSCTouch to send the coordinates of the finger on the iPad to Grasshopper, which then changes the height of the roof along the same trajectory.
In a real-life scenario, motion detection sensors in the floorboards would register these people flows.
Camera technology (webcam, kinect etc.) also opens the possibility of having people’s body movement within the building reflected in the flexible shape of the pavilion. The roof functions as an interactive surface adjusting itself in real-time to spatial and physical demands. Applying behaviour to these prototype of an interactive roof, it transforms the roof from a static element to a key component in a dynamic customizable environment. For instance, the body movements of a crowd might have a direct and clearly visible impact on the surrounding space. In a way, our pavilion gives people the freedom to define their surroundings by having the architectural space respond to their actions.
3. Transformation based on human communication
People’s emotions and behavior are nowadays widely shared through all kinds of social media. Our project is also capable of translating the filtered data retrieved from those media into the shape of the pavilion. When a certain word gains prominence in a group of people and is picked up by a website or through speech recognition technology, that word can then be linked to a previously determined configuration of the pavilion’s structure. The word ‘party’, for example, could trigger the pavilion to move energetically, whereas a word like ‘sleep’ would have the opposite effect, showing slow and soothing undulations in the roof. This kind of responsive architecture could heighten people’s emotions and stimulate their interaction, which can be very interesting in the case of events that thrive on ambiance. The pavilion would act as a dynamic and fluid organism capable of understanding human wants and translating those in an appropriate spatial configuration.
4. The design process
The idea grew from the search for a module that would be able to adapt to its surroundings on the basis of a limited set of situational parameters (topography, light) and functional parameters (e.g. the basic layout of the building). The degree of flexibility and adaptability of the design was of paramount importance in our conception of the idea. We then went looking for ways to elaborate the idea within the framework of our assignment. In our eyes it was the most straightforward design for an open pavilion with a movable roof structure.
The scale model is built upon a corner-point grid that allows an easy testing of said parameters. A hollow base measuring 0.9 m by 1.2 m contains twenty-eight built-in servomotors, each one using a set of gears to convert the motor’s rotary motion into the vertical motion of the pillars supporting the roof. The roof is constructed of triangular panels held together by hinged beams that can extend and contract.
How it works:
1. Input: iPad, Ecotect (environmental software), Processing (open source programming language), …
a) The input parameters are sent through OSCTouch, gHowl, geco GH2Ecotect or UDP to Grasshopper.
b) Different kinds of data are translated into height coordinates of the columns
c) These processed coordinates are sent through Firefly to an Arduino-board
a) Arduino controls 28 servos
b) Spur gears translate these coordinates into a vertical movement, controlling the roof structure
This is a preliminary test model of a kinetic pavilion. The final model will contain 28 servo motors controlled by an Arduino Mega and a Duemilanove board all connected to Rhino & Grasshopper via FireFly. The demo movie below includes a TouchOSC & gHowl setup which allows the structure to be controlled via an iPad.
The test model was published on
Dates: October 2010 – January 2011 (1MSc, Semester 1)
Tutors: Corneel Cannaerts and Tiemen Schotsaert
Team: Yannick Bontinck and Elise Elsacker
Finale score: 19/20
I tried to imagine an architecture that reacts on affective, expressive or cognitive signals via Brain Computer Interface Technology. The BCI device detects the amount of attention the user is paying through EEG and the user is supplied a realtime environment that reflects their current state of attentiveness.
My aim was to design a roof that would open and close on cognitive signals stimulated by the brains.
Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain.
The device is a headset with an electrode that sits above your eyebrow and three on your ear. These electrodes receive the electrical signals of the brain before being processed to ascertain the user his/her current state of attentiveness or relaxation.
The cognitive data from Emotiv software was simultaneously sent through OSC to Processing and Grasshopper. The data were correlated to the opening angle of the roof. When focusing on “Push” the kinetic roof will open. If one then gets back neutral thoughts, the roof closes again. This small experiment demonstrates the potential of the relationship between architecture and human feelings.
Dates: February 2011 – Septemeber 2011
1MaAr S1, Sint-Lucas, Ghent and iMAL, Center for Digital Cultures and Technology, Brussels
Tutors: Laura Luyten and Jo Van Den Berghe
Finale mark: 14/20