This project consisted of an inflatable structure wrapped in a swarm of flocking creatures. Visitors could move around the inflated volume or enter it, provoking the installation to express an “emotional” response through lighting, sound and the movement of its texture. The resulting experience proved popular, especially with children who were happy to shed play in the unusual “cave”. This experimental exhibit explored performative characteristics of hybrid, digital-and-physical architectural environments combining emergent effects of self-organising agent systems, non-standard architectural geometries, digital sensing and interactive, generative light and sound.
To date, the installation was shown twice: in Open Stage Theatre at the University of Melbourne and during PauseFest 2011.
What would happen if architecture could sense and adapt, like trees or corals? What if buildings had personalities with unique reactions and preferences, like higher animals or even people? Future-oriented interpretations of architecture understand it as a dynamic system of relationships that blur the distinctions between digital and physical, natural and artificial or simulated and observable in-the-wild. Designing (or breeding, cultivating and rearing) such environment is an unfamiliar and difficult task. It requires an engagement with a broad range of skills well beyond traditional architectural and design. In this context, Performative Architecture Installation served as a radical speculative project for research, learning, collaboration and demonstration.
Constructed as an outcome of a semester-long Master-level design studio at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Architecture, this installation exposed architecture students to a range of unfamiliar concepts and technologies including non-standard geometries, rapid-deployment inflatable structures, digital fabrication, computer vision, interactive applications, generative systems, complexity, self-organisation, emergence, digital simulation, ubiquitous computing and so on. By integrating these concepts in a full-scale, inhabitable environment, this experiment invited its participants to step out of their disciplinary comfort and imagine – through a fully functioning prototype – the shapes of possible futures.
The built environment is overwhelming the planet and many of its established practices are highly wasteful, inflexible and dis-coordinated. Contemporary challenges require integrated and innovative approaches to designing, spanning established practices or disciplinary boundaries. Speculative research-through-design projects can serve as an instrument for encouraging and sustaining innovation. Following this remit, the Performative Architecture Installation aimed to serve as a site for experimental learning and as a demonstrator of possibilities to the audiences of peers and members of general public.
The primary design challenge was in the coordination of a complex responsive system requiring multiple types of expertise. In this, the design process and its outcomes (exhibitions, public media records and publications) will contribute to the on-going design discourse and serve as a provocative template for future experiments within the University of Melbourne and beyond.
This speculative work is a step in a series of explorations that challenge the conventional modes of architectural creativity. This line of research seeks to re-conceptualise architectural outcomes as dynamic performances rather than static buildings. Such performances can be inspired by natural systems capable of self-organisation, adaptation and fine-tuned local responses. Focused on processes rather than on objects, this interpretation can lead to new types of structures, environments, design methods and procurement patterns. When designers learn from nature through computational mimicry, they gain greater understanding of environmental challenges and obtain tools enabling design innovations and performance efficiency.
Awards: Melbourne Design Awards 2012 (Finalist)
Team: Stanislav Roudavski, Gywllim Jahn, Roger Alsop, Kirilly Barnett, Suleiman Alhadidi, Chen Canhui, Eva Chen, Mani Williams, Joshua Ho, Nam Viet Hoang, Hamza Khan, Firadaus Khazis, Chin Siong Lim, Daniel Ryan, Arturo Steinberg, Yin Lih Tham, Lok Tsang, Andrew Walsh, Suleiman Alhadidi
Imagery + Courtesy: Project team