Embodied Computation Lab
Commissioned by Princeton University, this project is simple in form but sophisticated in function. It involves an “open source building” to host research on the future of construction and computation. Just as biologists use an electron microscope to study organisms, architects will use this structure to study buildings. The building includes new sustainability and low-carbon features, and the facade involves the use of custom algorithms trained to detect knots in wood—bringing the power of machine learning to the physical world.
This new 300-person Autodesk office and research space involved pushing the limits of generative design for architecture by bringing qualitative metrics into the traditionally quantitative task of space planning. The project began with high-level goals and constraints and then used the power of computation to generate, evaluate, and evolve thousands of design options. The result is a high-performing and novel work environment that responds to complex and high-resolution preferences from a large number of stake-holders.
Twin Mirror exposes the hidden biases in machine learning technologies that will allow the smart buildings and cities of the future to sense and gather data about their inhabitants and urban contexts. A live video feed of the exhibit’s visitors is processed by two different face-recognition models trained on two different sets of data to reveal the “digital twin” – an imperfect interpretation of the visitor’s image produced by the technology. A third large LED screen projects this data back into the urban context in real-time. Twin Mirror was exhibited at the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.
Hy-Fi offers a captivating physical environment and a new paradigm for sustainable architecture. In 2014, we tested and refined a new low-energy biological building material, manufactured 10,000 compostable bricks, constructed a 13-meter-tall tower, hosted public cultural events for three months, disassembled the structure, composted the bricks, and returned the resulting soil to local community gardens. This successful experiment offers many possibilities for future construction.
Developed in collaboration with Airbus, Autodesk, and APWorks, the Bionic Parition is the world’s largest metal 3D-printed airplane component. The partition is a dividing wall between the seating area and the galley of a plane, and it is a challenging component to design because of its complex functional and structural requirements. The new Bionic Partition—created through a combination of generative design, 3D printing, and advanced materials—is almost 50% lighter than current designs, and it is also stronger. This weight savings translates to fuel savings and carbon emission reduction (potentially over one million metric tons per year).
Black Lake is a ten-minute song from Bjork’s album Vulnicura and was also the culmination and centerpiece of her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The museum installation involved a collaboration with Björk and filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang to bring together audio, video, and physical space. Each element was designed to resonate with the others and to create an intense immersive experience.
HIVE is a pavilion built in three days through a new process of human and robot collaboration. The project was created in partnership with Autodesk Pier 9, Autodesk Research User Interface Group, and the ICD (Institute for Computational Design) at the University of Stuttgart. This project forefronts a combination of experimental technologies for design and construction, including tensegrity structures, generative design, robotic construction, and interactive wearable computing. Robots (UR-10) were provided by Universal Robotics.
Commissioned by the School of the Art Institue of Chicago and Jonathan Solomon for "Outside Design" and the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial and designed in partnership with Ali Brivanlou Lab at Rockefeller University, Amphibious Envelope is an experimental building facade system that re-imagines the insulated glazing unit as a living ecosystem. Combining living organisms, sensors, and a micro-HVAC system, Amphibious Envelope can self-regulate indoor oxygen levels, self-clean, and provide dynamic shading.
Quantified Self Conference
Quantified Self is an organization supporting new discoveries made about the self and our communities through accurate observation and communal sharing. For their 2015 conference we planned and designed key components of the exhibit hall at the Fort Mason Convention Center, as well as creating our own installation: an automated drawing robot that air-brushed a growing spiral of messages tweeted about Quantified Self throughout the 3-day event.
Pier 35 EcoPark
Commissioned by New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and developed in collaboration with Natalie Jeremijenko, Pier 35 EcoPark is a permanent part of the redeveloped Pier 35 that includes new mussel habitats, new interfaces to water quality, new visualizations of air and water flow, new combinations of biological and digital information, and new forms of environmental education. It starts with a revived mussel population at the river’s edge, but it expands to include many other forces in the urban ecosystem. In the context of resilience and responses to Hurricane Sandy and climate change, this project is the only section of reconstructed ecological shoreline in Manhattan.
Living Light is a permanent pavilion commissioned by the City of Seoul that glows and blinks according to real-time air quality and public interest in the environment. It suggests that buildings of the future may change in response to the environment and provide an interface to the health of the city. The pavilion offers tactile enclosure and ethereal information. It suggests that buildings can communicate with citizens and make visible the invisible. It also suggests that buildings can become a register of our collective concern about important issues.
Salvage City / Build It Green
Construction waste accounts for 40% of landfill in the United States. Construction of a typical 2,000-square-foot home contributes 8,000 pounds of waste. Build It Green redirects some of this waste back into new construction—through its deconstruction company, its retail store, and its community outreach initiatives. We have been working with Built It Green for several years on demonstration projects and educational material. For its new building in Gowanus, we are designing a new storefront to replace a solid brick wall with an open retail and community space. We are using salvaged joists for structure, salvaged glass doors for the envelope, salvaged concrete for a new ramp and indoor seating, and salvaged paint with added glass beads to create a dazzling new visual effect to attract people to this developing urban block. Our system involves 99% salvaged materials and offers a new definition of “green architecture.”
Commissioned by the National Science Foundation and developed with plant biologist Fernan Federici at Cambridge University, we are using living biological cells as tiny computers. We start with xylem cells that naturally grow in the stems of plants and generate complex 3D forms through a kind of “biological algorithm.” But when the conditions are altered—through a method we invented to grow xylem cells in glass plates—we can create tiny 3D “bounding shapes” such as a boot shape or a stadium shape, and then “run the xylem algorithm” within the shape. The resulting forms are striking, efficient in their structure and distribution of material, and potentially useful in designing new architecture. More generally, this new form of “cooperation” between a human designer and a plant cell allows us to produce designs that a human alone—or even a human and a computer—could never create.
Commissioned by Autodesk Research for TED Global 2012, we are using synthetic biology to manufacture novel building materials with higher performance and greater sustainability than traditional methods. First, we create new strains of synthetic bacteria that combine three properties of natural bacteria: deposition of hard material, deposition of soft material, and complex spatial patterning. Then we use the bacteria as tiny factories to produce composite sheets with new properties of structure and transparency. Most important, these composite materials can be grown from sugar rather than refined from oil, reducing carbon emissions and improving global flows of energy and raw materials.
Commissioned by Autodesk Research, we invented a new design workflow to generate novel, high-performing physical objects. A typical way to design a chair might involve an initial sketch that captures your own creativity and thinking about what the chair should look like and what it should be made of. But using this new method, we imagine that the initial sketch is deliberately incomplete. Here, a user sets up a problem, uses the power of computation to evolve design options that cover a wide design space, then explores designs and discovers solutions that would otherwise be impossible to design and manufacture.
The Gray Rush
The Gray Rush, commissioned by the Nevada Museum of Art, is a series of physical prototypes, drawings, and photographs of a future when lithium—or “gray gold”—is one of the world’s most valuable resources due to its use in lightweight batteries for cell phones, laptops, and electric cars. In this future, lithium is found in the brine beneath salt flats, and its concentration is measured by paper chromatography. Here, lone prospectors roam vast landscapes using 19th Century technology to test the earth for 21st Century riches. The project explores both global flows of resources and personal human experience in relation to technology, society, and the built environment.