Monday, December 31. 2012
We’ve seen some fantastic installation art recently, ranging from the Interactive Thunderstorm in Philadelphia, to The Rain Room in London. And now – joy of joys – we’re reflecting on more amazing installation art for y’all to dive into. This time we’re in the Bockenhelmer Depot, in Frankfurt, Germany. Ready? Right, let’s GO!
The magical spacial installation Scattered Crowds was conceived of by multi-disciplinary artist William Forsythe. Thousands of white balloons are suspended in the air, accompanied by a wash of music, emphasising “the air-borne landscape of relationships, distance, of humans and emptiness, of coalescence and decision”. Obviously, keep your eyes open and finish reading my little post, but this installation is well worth taking five; Put some tunes on and visualise your world surrounded by balloons. What would you do? How would you move?
And that’s the physical point of the installation – you’re forced to interact with each balloon which requires effort to manoeuvre, dodge, dance pass, or simply run headlong through like a sexually charged elephant. William’s installation draws this out of everybody who interacts with it, replicating the emotions and decisions of people. With this in mind, please – no pins!
Friday, December 21. 2012
Here’s a mind-blowing view of the Earth that you’ve probably never seen — or even thought of — before. Dubbed “Portrait of Global Aerosols” by NASA, this is the kind of imagery that climate scientists use to analyze the Earth’s atmosphere, the weather, and trends such as global climate change.
Now, first things first: The Earth doesn’t actually look like this from space (alas). Rather, this is an image output by the Goddard Earth Observation System Model, version 5 (GEOS-5). GEOS-5 is an almighty piece of software that runs on a supercomputer at NASA’s Center for Climate Simulation in Maryland.
In the case of this image, GEOS-5 is modeling the presence of aerosols (solid or liquid particles suspended in gas) across the Earth’s atmosphere. Each of the colors represents a different aerosol: Red is dust (swept up from deserts, like the Sahara); Blue is sea salt, swirling inside cyclones; Green is smoke from forest fires; and white is sulfates, which bubble forth from volcanoes — and from burning fossil fuels. The full-size version of the image is particularly mesmerizing, with beautiful swirls of Saharan sand in the Atlantic, and perhaps the tail end of the Gulf Stream circling around Iceland.
It’s hard to be certain, but it seems like the US east coast, central Europe, and east Asia are burning a lot of fossil fuels. Japan, of course, sits on the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire, so the sulfates there could be from volcanoes. The smoke in Australia is probably from forest fires — but the large volume of smoke from the Amazon rain forest and sub-Saharan Africa is curious. Are these forest fires, or the large-scale burning of wood for heat and power?
As you can imagine, the amount of raw data required to produce such imagery is immense. Weather modeling is still one of the primary uses of supercomputers. To create the Portrait of Global Aerosols, GEOS-5 will have aggregated the measurements from hundreds of weather stations across Earth, along with data from the four NASA/NOAA GOES weather satellites. So you have some idea of the complexity of the GEOS-5 model, the resolution of this image is 10 kilometers (6 miles) — meaning the Earth has been split into regions (“pixels”) of 10km2, and then the atmospheric conditions are simulated for each region. The surface area of the Earth is 510,072,000km2, which means the total number of regions is around 5 million.
Each of these 5 million pixels might have megabytes or gigabytes of weather data associated with it — and of course, in any given area, the weather in each pixel interacts with those around it. This gives you some idea of how much data needs to be processed and moved around — and it only becomes exponentially more complex as sensors improve (producing more data) and as you increase the depth of your analysis. In the case of climate change, for example, scientists are modeling decades or even centuries of data to try and divine some kind of pattern — a task that taxes even the most powerful supercomputers. If you’ve ever wondered why we keep building faster and faster supercomputers, now you know why.
A computer that can be screwed into a light socket can project interactive images onto any nearby surface.
By Tom Simonite on November 29, 2012
Desk toy: A computer with a camera and projector fits into a light bulb socket, and can make any surface interactive.
Powerful computers are becoming small and cheap enough to cram into all sorts of everyday objects. Natan Linder, a student at MIT’s Media Lab, thinks that fitting one inside a light bulb socket, together with a camera and projector, could provide a revolutionary new kind of interface—by turning any table or desk into a simple touch screen.
The LuminAR device, created by Linder and colleagues at the Media Lab, can project interactive images onto a surface, sensing when a person’s finger or hand points to an element within those images. Linder describes LuminAR as an augmented-reality system because the images and interfaces it projects can alter the function of a surface or object. While LuminAR might seem like a far-fetched concept, many large technology companies are experimenting with new kinds of computer interfaces in hopes of discovering new markets for their products (see “Google Game Could Be Augmented Reality’s First Killer App” and ”A New Chip to Bring 3-D Gesture Control to Smartphones”).
Linder’s system uses a camera, a projector, and software to recognize objects and project imagery onto or around them, and also to function as a scanner. It connects to the Internet using Wi-Fi. Some capabilities of the prototype, such as object recognition, rely partly on software running on a remote cloud server.
LuminAR could be used to create an additional display on a surface, perhaps to show information related to a task in hand. It can also be used to snap a photo of an object, or of printed documents such as a magazine. A user can then e-mail that photo to a contact by interacting with LuminAR’s projected interface.
“I’m really excited by the way this would be used by engineers and designers,” says Linder, who believes it could be useful for any creative occupation that often involves working with paper and other tangible objects as well as computers.
LuminAR could have uses beyond the desk or office environment. One demo to illustrate the use of one of the devices features a mock-up of an electronics store, where the device projected price tags next to cameras on a table, as well as buttons that could be used to call up more product information. Linder has also tried using it for Skype-style video calls, projecting the caller’s video onto the wall next to the desk the lamp stood on.
The current prototype is built around a processor from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon series, commonly used in smartphones and tablets. Linder and colleagues are experimenting with both a custom Linux-based operating system and a modified version of Google’s Android mobile operating system.
Earlier LuminAR prototypes included a motorized arm for the lamp, too. But the researchers are currently focused on finessing the bulb-only version. That design cuts costs and complexity, and also makes the technology easier to adopt, says Linder. “It has zero cost of adoption. You just change the bulb in your lamp,” he says.
Tuesday, December 18. 2012
NASA plans a new weapon in the fight against space insomnia: high-tech light-emitting diodes to replace the fluorescent bulbs in the U.S. section of the International Space Station.
About half of everyone who flies to space relies on sleep medication, at some point, to get some rest. For $11.2 million, NASA hopes to use the science of light to reduce astronauts' dependency on drugs.
According to NASA flight surgeon Smith Johnston, studies in Anchorage, Alaska showed that hospital staff made more medical errors during the darkest times of the year. The finding demonstrates that people have a day-night cycle that must be respected, even when they're doing the demanding work of space exploration.
"When you have normal light coming through the windows of stores, and schools, and hospitals, people do better. They function better," said Johnston, the lead physician for NASA's wellness program. [Video: Do Astronauts Dream of Weightless Sheep?]
Tough sleep in space
Sleep is no trivial matter in space. Astronauts generally get about six hours of shut-eye in orbit despite being allowed 8.5. Demanding schedules and unusual environments are among the factors that cause insomnia.
"The station is noisy, carbon dioxide is high, you don't have a shower, there's a lot of angst because you've got to perform. Imagine if you have a camera on you 24 hours a day," Johnston said.
Over time, sleep deprivation can cause irritation, depression, sickness or mistakes. Any of these problems can be dangerous in the close, confined, pressurized quarters of the space station.
In an effort to address the problem, NASA plans to replace the orbiting laboratory's fluorescent bulbs with an array of LEDs switching between blueish, whitish and reddish light, according to the time of day. The changes can be programmed in by the ground, or the astronauts. The new light bulbs are due to be swapped in by 2016.
Blue light stimulates the human brain best because people evolved to respond to the color of Earth's sky, experts say. When an astronaut's eyes are exposed to blue light, his or her body suppresses melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Blue also promotes the formation of melanopsin, a "protein pigment" that keeps people awake.
In simple terms, the color red reverses the process. Melatonin increases, making the astronaut sleepy, while melanopsin is suppressed.
"You can dial in a natural day-night cycle on the space station" with the new light arrays, which are being developed by Boeing, Johnston said.
It should work well, he added, unless astronauts look out the window at bedtime. They then run the risk of confusing their body clocks by exposing their eyes to natural sunlight reflecting off of Earth.
Technology can go only so far in solving sleep problems, Johnston said. This is why NASA prescribes good "sleep hygiene" for its crews before and during spaceflight.
Medications are used only as a last resort, and are tested extensively on Earth by each crew member. In case of emergency, astronauts must awaken easily even during the deepest stages of sleep.
The astronauts also get practice sleeping under difficult circumstances by virtue of their demanding preflight schedules, which include flights to Russia and Japan for training.
NASA works with the astronauts to minimize jet lag. Techniques that help for each crew member, such as wearing sunglasses on the plane and taking medications at a certain time, can then be used in orbit.
Groups on Earth will benefit from the research, too, especially shift workers or travellers fighting jet lag, Johnston said.
"Hopefully, we'll have spinoffs that other doctors can use, and the military can use for their flight surgeons."
Of course, it makes me think (a lot!) to the 3 projects we did back in 2010 (I-Weather as Deep Space Public Lighting) and with Philippe Rahm architects in 2009 (I-Weather v.2009) and 2001 (I-Weather).
Tuesday, December 11. 2012
By fabric | ch
Gradientizer is an architectural proposal for the New Planetarium and Natural Science Center buildings and program in Lausanne, Switzerland. It consists in the transformation of an old, almost rural and isolated settlement and the adjunction of two new buildings.
The proposal was completed early this year and was developed in close collaboration with Madrid based architects AMID.cero9 (Cristina Diaz Moreno and Efren Garcia Grinda, both also teachers at the Architectural Association in London).
We didn't win the "trophy" unfortunately, but as we believe nonetheless that the project is of interest, we take the opportunity to document and shortly present it on | rblg.
Gradientizer (excerpts from the competition text)
An architecture that articulates light, that pervades into the existing luminous gradients and albedos of the site, that transforms them on site, in plan and in section and which creates "dark poles", real "attractors" of the program: Planetarium, Solar room, Sky observation deck. A forgotten atmosphere, "almost unknown", but monitored nevertheless, built around the exposure of the program to light, in which visitors and scientists freely wander, layer by layer.
Monitored architecture of light gradients and albedos
The observation of the sky, by daytime and nighttime, is always marked by an intimate relationship with weather and light conditions. To make accessible the cosmos from Earth with the naked eye as through a powerful telescope, special conditions are needed: minimum cloud cover, low atmospheric density, maximum distance to the sources of artificial light at night.
Would we realize today a world map of the suitable observation locations, in continuous time, it would likely reveal a landscape in a vanishing phase, a kind of forgotten preindustrial relic. A sensual landscape that evolve along days and seasons: clear sky, starry dark night, low pollution, near low reflectance (albedo) lands.
It is this landscape, which has become almost unknown nowadays, that makes possible the observation of another one, fascinating and borderless: the cosmos. It is also precisely around this landscape that our project is built: a "gradient" architecture that seeks to analyze and transform the light patterns of the place, to inhabit them, which looks to generate and shape this "unknown landscape" and to comment it.
Expression of the light gradient on site at night (top image, the road axis are artificially lit, the rest of the site is dark --woods and grass land-- with the adjunction of a courtyard in the new project on the left image) and relation bewteen surfaces and albedo of surfaces (bottom image).
However, the site of the New Planterium has a light gradient of its own, with varying intensities: artificial illumination of roads at night, large farm like roofs that generate darkness during the day.
The project seeks to leverage this existing state, to develop it, whether it be in the positioning and association of functions in an almost generative way (rule based) or in the amplification of the roofs of the buidlings: to "gradientize" the overall site through its architecture.
To "gradientize" the site
Articulated around 4 main categories of exposure to light ("fully", "mostly", "partly" and "not at all" exposed), the program is distributed around the matching gradients of light on the site to achieve the initial distribution of functions. In section, this gradient is reinforced in order to create permanent "black areas" and to further distribute the program vertically.
Expression of the light gradient on site and on the buildings (average value between the exposition to natural or artificial luminosity and the albedo of the surfaces).
White zone (fully exposed to light) along the roads axis, in the courtyard and around the ground levels that evolve toward the black zone (not exposed to light) on the east of the site and in the upper levels (roofs), through light grey (mostly exposed) and dark grey (partly exposed). The gradient on site serves us both as a way to locate functions and to choose materials or landscape treatments (according to their reflectance - albedo).
The program (surfaces, volumes and functions) of the New Planetarium and Natural Science Center dispatched according to its potential exposition to light, with the same 4 levels (fully, mostly, partly, not at all) as expressed on site.
Schematic rules in plan and section to increase and deform existing lighting conditions (both natural and artificial): "onion" rings that filter light from the outside toward the inside in plan, suppression of basements that are moved into bigger roofs to progressively create drakness from botton to top levels.
Three main rules allow us to organize in this way the whole program of the New Planetarium and to outline its architecture. At night and in mass plan, the luminosity and reflectance gradient of the site evolves from lit perimeters, near traffic areas and roads, to dark areas towards forests and grassland (on the east part of the site, guaranteed to be kept in the future due to the reallocation of the whole area into a protected green park). The repartition of activities and functions on the site results mainly from this first rule (the program analysis based on its exposition to light). Thus, no artificial light is directed towards the east and south of the site at night. In plan, again but inside the buildings this time and mainly during day time, a concentric organization of volumes allow to filter and lower the light from the outside toward the inside. In section finally, during day time especially, large and deep roofs of agricultural characteristics also ensure the creation of shadows and darkness. No artificial lighting is installed in the dark grey or black areas.
The resulting axonometry of the project and principles of spatial organisation/uses according to the chosen set of rules.
This approach makes it possible to define principles of spatial organization, by day and night. This is the intention of the project: an architecture that fits into a monitored gradient of light proper to the site, which exploits but transforms its vocabulary of forms and materials, which deforms, amplifies and strengthens them, both in plan and section. These principles engender our architecture of spatial shifts, its main code. The result is the GRADIENTIZER.
Planetarium, solar room, museum, hotel and eco-shop: ground floor plan and planetarium section, where the principles of organization in plan and section are applied.
Probes, sensors, monitoring, feedback loops and algorithms
A set of light and atmospheric probes equip the site and the interiors of the buildings. They are positioned so to reveal in first sight the average gradient on the site and to locate specific areas for the public (white, light grey, drak grey and black masts at different heights equiped with sensors that are positioned along the main lines of each gradient). Some also serve as furniture or lighting (white areas). These sensors continuously analyze the state of illumination of the Gradientizer and reveal it through freely accessible interfaces (both on site information displays, distributed over the Internet or through mobile apps) and feedbacks.
This constant analysis transcribes in "real time", along time and seasons, the variable state of a large architectural device based on simple rules (the exposition of the program to --monitored-- light). Custom and architectural algorithms indicate appropriate times to achieve a particular observation, shift of functions or activities in a conducive area.
The position, orientation and design of the probes, made out of 4 different heights and that are coated in white, light grey, dark grey and black, reveal a first vision of the site's light gradient and surfaces albedo to the naked eye. They also serve to locate different activities (observation in the potential dark areas, public program in the white ones).
Darker than black (meta-material)
The upper levels of the new roofs (around the observation decks) are treated like “darker than black” meta-materials (see below), instead they are scaled about 10 billion times: a spiked surface within which incident lighting is getting reflected many times, loses its strength before eventually getting out. It can be considered as a similar process as what is happening in an anechoic chamber, but in this case for light instead of sound.
“Darker than black” metamaterials are nanoscale materials (that could also be used as coating) that trap the reflexion of light through very dark spiked surfaces. Therefore, the incident light is reflected a lot of time (at a tiny scale) before eventually getting out again. The light is "sucked" by the material and much less of it is reflected (only 1%).
Architecture as shifting landscape
The whole Planetarium and Natural Science Center can be seen and experienced as a light based architecture - landscape in constant evolution. It offers therefore oscillations, unpredictable spatial and uses variations. It suggests some sort of nomadic and evolving uses over time to adapt to the varying conditions.
A landscape that should be understood here in the sense of an environment with blurred limits, within which one can evolve with a certain freedom according to ones desires or needs. A landscape that "feels" its own variations and makes them visible, livable.
Location: Lausanne, Switzerland
Team, fabric | ch: Patrick Keller, Christophe Guignard, Sinan Mansuroglu, Nicolas Besson
Team, AMID.cero9: Cristina Diaz Moreno, Efren Garcia Grinda, José Quintanar, Vicente Soler, Laura Migueláñez, Pei-Yao Wu
Partner: Computed·By (coding creative projects)
(Page 1 of 3, totaling 11 entries) » next page
fabric | rblg
This blog is the survey website of fabric | ch - studio for architecture, interaction and research.
We curate and reblog articles, researches, writings, exhibitions and projects that we notice and find interesting during our everyday practice and readings.
Most articles concern the intertwined fields of architecture, territory, art, interaction design, thinking and science. From time to time, we also publish documentation about our own work and research, immersed among these related resources and inspirations.
This website is used by fabric | ch as archive, references and resources. It is shared with all those interested in the same topics as we are, in the hope that they will also find valuable references and content in it.
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