CIPHER CITY: REVOLUTIONS Review

by Alexandros Kallegias, Director of the AA Athens Visiting School

06 March 2015
Athens, Greece

 

The Architectural Association Visiting School in Athens is part of the Athens/Istanbul research agenda, investigating design possibilities of architectural modelling via scripting and digital fabricating techniques at large scale models. AA Athens | Istanbul Visiting School (AI) defines architecture as “an art of super-positioning ideas and architectural principles which are being performed repeatedly”. Its’ foundations lie in combining theory and practice with shared knowledge, as well as the goal of going beyond individuality to address today’s challenges through dialogue.

 

View through the Interactive Archetype Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

View through the Interactive Archetype
Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

Now in its’ third cycle, AA Athens Visiting School has evolved to take on the task of creating a 1:1 architectural prototype which demonstrates connectivity, adjustability and interaction. After being Recharged in 2013, Cipher City got equipped to challenge once more the motionless, static built environment by implementing innovative design Revolutions.

 

This interactive prototype redefines the concept of the architectural pathway. Standing tall at 2.5 meters, 1.2 meters wide and 4.5 meters long, the structure includes a system that has the ability to detect movements. Made of fixed wooden frames and elastic strings that rotate and stretch, the prototype is wired with sensors and actuators. At first, the path appears to be obstructed by the net of strings that run from one side of the structure to the other. The patterning of the woven elastic cords is designed strategically in order to affect the visual perception of a person crossing through the model. Two different sets of panels comprise the final piece; interactive panels and pattern panels. While a person approaches the pathway, the system gets activated by the user’s presence. This acts as the external stimulus that sets the model in different states according to the movement of people. The life-like large-scale prototype bears the behavioural signature of a primal organism. A complex sort of behaviour which arises out of multiple relatively simple rules; when there is only a single user the prototype is put in a hostile state, with its flexible muscular strings vibrating nervously to block the entrance. When a second user appears, the system is reset into a friendly mode allowing users to enter the space. The connections rotate and gently lift the elastic cords in order for the two users to walk in and meet. Time and light are also essential in the generation of these desired effects. The system is designed to augment the user’s experience of its space. At this time, the central brain of the structure activates a vivid flickering of lights, thus communicating with its’ users the need to move out. Kinetic Haze acts as an experimental architectural piece that promotes communication between humans and structure as well as between humans and other humans through the structure. It is the result of collective work done in less than 5 days by the participants of AA Athens VS 2014. All teams presented their respective design proposals, the basic principles of which were applied to the design and make of Kinetic Haze.

 

Structural Assembly via Scaled Prototype Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

Structural Assembly via Scaled Prototype
Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

Constructing in Triangles Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

Constructing in Triangles
Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

Student Work:

4fan

Katerina Bali, Ismini Epitropou, Efthymia Kasimati, Maria Velaora

Aspiring to expand the human perception of space, Team 4fan developed frameClouds; an interactive system that allowed the user to engage with the built pathway. The frameClouds design followed a tessellation pattern based on the division of triangles. The division pattern was analysed and three strategic intervention points are chosen. These points were used to place air-fans in order to form different fields of interaction with the user. The material system consists of plastic bags which followed the triangulated pattern. Due to their flexible, transparent and unconstrained characteristics, plastic bags were chosen to fulfil the selected grid. They allowed light to go through, eventually creating a visual gradient bump effect. The air-fans were activated by sensing the user’s presence. The bags inflated and deflated and the space was converted from a straight corridor to an experience of refined limits and augmented duration as the user was drawn to occupy an ever-changing space.

 

4Fan Team Presentation Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

4Fan Team Presentation
Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

HMN

Hazem Halasa, Dimitra Askouni, Nessma Al Ghoussein

Team HMN created a model characterised as communication through separation. The concept entailed a transformative separation between two people through the structure. A barrier entangling the passageway endeavoured to create a kinetic distinction that allowed users through to the other side without the element of visual communication with one another. The installation played on the notion of needing another individual without every knowing who they might be or how they might complement them in means other than passing through the structure. It was necessary to keep the users separated in order to heighten this experience of interacting with the unidentified and emphasising the under-rated notion of dependency. The interpretation of the passage manifested itself in a barrier that was slit into horizontal components that deformed as the barrier compressed/expanded. These deformations sometimes allowed the exposure of parts of the users, hinting/teasing them into trying to guess their partner, but never fully revealing one another. The linear division complemented the triangular reading of the structure, and also led the users into using the passage to move linearly through the space.

 

Purple_Haze

Daphne Dimopoulou, Michail Tavladorakis, Christina Bali

Inspired by materiality, Team Purple_Haze proposed a system of elastic strings attached to the pathway’s structure. The placement of strings is arranged perpendicularly to a person’s walk through the pathway, bridging the two opposing sides of the model. As soon as the person enters the path, the prototype shifts from its initial phase to the second phase in order to welcome the user within. Sensing devices transform the dormant architectural piece into an active system; mechanical motors lift up the strings, whose flexible materiality allows them to stretch, thus opening up the path visually. Purple_Haze successfully combined the sophistication behind an Arduino controller with the natural characteristics of stretchy springs to form an interactive architectural model which is driven by the human presence and which is affecting the human perception of space.

 

The Oscillators

Konstantinos Sfikas, Anastasia Verteouri, Eirini Stolidou, Nikos Kourniatis

Redefining the concept of the architectural pathway, Team Oscillators created the Nervous Corridor. This interactive passage archetype was divided into a total of five zones; each zone had a different reaction to human presence. According to a person’s distance from the edges of the pathway, the model moved from a relaxed state to a tense state. On its material characteristics, the Oscillators tested various textile systems; from pleated fabric to allow movement, to elastic transparent membranes and thread-covered triangulated structures. The materiality allows for a more animalistic behaviour when triggered by the motors as it is flexible and has a phase difference on its transformation. Approaching the model’s edges triggers an unpredictable behaviour of the textile system while the central zone is considered as the safe friendly zone. Soft and chaotic oscillation occurs while the user travels from one side of the pathway to the other.

 

Light Patterned Paneling Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

Light Patterned Paneling
Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

Wave(X)

Maria-Eleni Bali, Zoi-Dafni Arnellou, Catherine Berki

The creative combinatory approach of various material systems together with the intelligent use of the Arduino electronic microcontrollers enabled the invention of the human-scale interactive pathway made by Team Wave(X). The prototype was put into action the moment a user passes through it by deforming its malleable fabric surface. The physical model consisted of wooden fixed beams, wooden moveable vertical elements and a malleable metal net attached to the wooden structure. The interaction took place by sensing movement within the pathway. Horizontal rails started to move inwards and outwards thus deforming the metal net attached to them. The  perfectly synchronised motion of the rails created the feeling of an enclosure that follows the user’s trajectory. The smooth movement of the rails followed by the smooth net recreated that of a wave travelling through space and matter accompanying the person moving within

 

Overview of the Interactive/Kinetic Archetype Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

Overview of the Interactive/Kinetic Archetype
Image credit: Alice Mangoyan

For more information:

AA Visiting School Athens 2014- microsite

AA Visiting School Athens – programme brief

Alexandros on AA Conversations

Tutors: Alexandros Kallegias, Elif Erdine, Dağhan Çam, Charalampos Doukas, Anna Laskari, Eirini Vouliouri, Myrto Maria Barbaris, Maria Brewster

 

Digital Simulation of the Interactive Kinetic Archetype. Image credit: AA Athens VS 2014

Digital Simulation of the Interactive Kinetic Archetype.
Image credit: AA Athens VS 2014