I stumbled upon a couple of videos which reminded me of a project I did in my 3rd year, in Uni, and I’d like to share my thoughts on the subject they have in common.
The first video is about a guy called Anthony Howe, who makes kinetic sculptures that react to the external environment (in this case, the wind). In short, the sculptures are modeled and animated using computer software and then, he cuts each individual piece with a programmed laser cutter. He said “I was bored with everything being static in my visual world… I wanted to see stuff float”, and I couldn’t agree more; I feel the same way about architecture and buildings. The fact that I grew up in an ex-communist country and in a city which has too few ‘awes’ to offer in terms of architecture, made me yearn for something even more than great architectural spaces or colors or shapes; I felt I needed to move beyond the static and find something new, something more… dynamic.
More details in the video:
The second video shows the work of Doris Sung, an architect who tackled the subject of dynamism in architecture and created a concept for a building skin which, like the aforementioned sculptures, reacts to the external environment (in this case, the temperature). The thermo-bimetal bends as it reaches higher temperatures, allowing air through the skin and, after cooling down, it returns to its original shape. This opens up many opportunities to create new types of facades which may provide better shading/air conditioning while, at the same time, offer the element of ‘awe’ to the public.
See it here:
The project which I mentioned in the beginning evolved around using such a skin.
I built this quick functional model to show how the mechanics work. The skin is an expandable, weatherproof fabric which is supported by a frame; through that frame there are wires which are connected to certain points in the skin and to a pin wheel system which collects wind; so, as the wind turns the pin wheel, the skin moves.
Senzorial function (indoors).
Visual function (outdoors).
Now, imagine the ‘dialog’ between a building with such a skin and its environment. External factors such as wind or heat, which are invisible to the naked eye, are translated into a visual perception and thus, creating excitement and uniqueness. The last two images show an application of this skin on a museum/gallery which I designed and how I used the system to achieve two functions:
In the first one, the collected wind is fed to an internal, dark colored fabric which, in return, moves in order to create a sensory eperience for the people who visit the gallery. Think about how people with visual imparement can walk through such a sensory space (maybe not a gallery 😕 ) and feel with their hands the slow movements in the fabric, which are faithful to the movement of the wind on the outside; this is a translation of one perception to another.
The second function also features a fabric which responds to wind but, it is on the exterior; it has a visual function, to translate the speed of the wind into rapid or slow movements accordingly, thus creating visual excitement.
So to sum up, think about where you stand regarding this topic: should the built environment remain full of static wonders or should it try to surprise us at the very first glance through movement, like a rare natural event would, forcing us to stop and stare… ?