The research is a design study for finding new alternative solutions for creating a design strategy; for the possibility of creating “space-changing” environments with a constant development held in them (like the organisms’ development through a life span). Furthermore the thesis is about the patterns of behaviour derived from biology and nature and the possible bio-mechanism that could be discovered and used for creating an architectural environment that could be a self-sufficient system. Such an outlook gives lots of possibilities and an area for speculations – a possibility of what architecture might be.
The thesis project pursues an environment for transformation and adaptation – a setting with responsive actions and living technologies at a primitive level for now but with a potential to develop in architecture in future. That environment creates a public space that reacts to and depends on human presence with surfaces that spread in three dimensions. The single species of this system are of an equal importance to the series of species and form a” living organism”. With the use of tessellated geometry the formed urfaces and configurations act like a hybrid public architecture where everything depends on everything.
The movement of a particular biological species - the butterfly is translated into an ephemeral and light design which acts like a spatial transformable boundary – a space-changing enclosure which is not solid and is modified into a setting for perception and experience with an accent on the relationships in the system.
Biomimicry: an alternative strategy for exploring new ways of designing
Different biological analogies in architecture and the arts have been made for centuries and many architects and artists looked for an inspiration in nature. Nowadays there is a predisposition in architecture in relation to biology for a research in evolutionary biology and evolutionary algorithms, artificial intelligence, cybernetics and general systems theory. More particularly the subject matter I looked at in more depth is the research in dynamic behaviours of biological species and the possible interactions that occur and the forms and behaviours that appear from that explo- ration. Biological mechanisms, forms and inspiration could be found and used as design strategies by studying the process in complex biological systems. This exploration could be referred and found in the literature as Biomimicry, Biotechnics, Bionics, Biomimetics and so on.
The thesis is a design study that explores the boundary between nature and culture, immaterial and material, organic and mechanical, human and animal, system and environment. The research began as a study of the dynamic behaviours of biological species, the possible interactions that occur and the forms and behaviours that appear. Through series of adaptive bio-mechanical devices the work evolved into a responsive and adaptive environment with choreographed movements and patterns of behaviour. The formed biological system performs in synchrony with the surrounding environment and acts as a dynamic and flexible complex entity. The setting is a network, a mesh of patterns of rela- tionships and processes and acts like an organised whole.
“Kinetic pattern is ephemeral – clusters, thickenings and gradients of movement.”
Experimentation in kinetics and architectural skins is introduced more widely recently. Facades and elements are transformed in kinetic living creatures changing in synchrony with the environment. The kinetic quality of the locomotion and the bio-mechanisms that are hidden behind it in the current study are the driver that animates the artificial system. The surface itself acts like a mechanism supported by the mechanics behind it – it folds and unfolds, bends, twists – that way the movement becomes three-dimensional. The pleats of the fabric unfold delicately so the mechanics become subtle and the clumsiness from the first experiments is not present. A basic servo system is used for achieving the kinetic quality of the locomotion and the added surface compliments and bounds with it. The pattern of motion arises from the movement of the multiple parts in the single device and then in the system – morphology of movement is the result and transforms the system in an unfolding architecture. The local movement in the parts is simple and the complexity comes from the global outcome – the collaboration between the parts themselves and the system at a bigger scale.
“A new generation of giant-scale textiles is at the core of a
revolution in architecture.” S Hanna and PA Beesley
An underlying accent in the installation is the exceptional use of uncommon materials – namely the use of fabric. The relationship between architecture and textiles has an ongoing history and there are vast developments in the last 20 years. Therefore the qualities of textiles such as lightness, fluidity, thinness, softness, flexibility make them appropriate for the achieving of this architectural paradigm of dynamics, transparency and delicacy.
The use of the fabric envelopes the structure of the devices like skin and is a reflection of the movement, at the same times it creates the character of the movement – makes it animate and organic, constantly changing, twisting, bending, folding, unfolding, and spreading. The fabric is bendable and flexible therefore its eminence changes the quality of the devices’ motion – they become alive. The surfaces thrive a metamorphosis – the change of form is inspired by the natural process of transformation. There is a definite and profound interrelation between form, function and structure which is extremely important in biological organisms. The fabric and the light design reflect into an ephemeral structure – half-boundary, half-opening. Basic quality of the fabric is its allowance of folding; the quality is coupled with the mechanics that stand behind the motion and together make the structure transformable and deployable.
Making is an essential part in the design process for testing the underlying principles and ideas of Bionics. Through the development of the thesis technological and mechanical problems were becoming aesthetic problems repeatedly. Turning the abstract ideas explored in the simulations in a functioning and aesthetical physical model was vital. Making was dictating what was possible and what not – the design was achieved by trial and error. Mechanics are a profound part for the aimed design – and were intrinsic moment for realising the locomotion and that way creating the living system. A research in kinetics and mechanical mechanisms guided the design. It appeared that involving the technology in the design was not an easy task – the combination of organic and immaterial essence with the mechanics in such a way so the design did not look clumsy but light and ephemeral was the most difficult part of the thesis.
Further analyses through modern methods - CAD/CAM programs
Parametric model of a butterfly movement
he vast development of technology makes possible detailed exploration of biological processes and behaviours - something that was a basic obstacle in the past. Computer aided design and manufacturing like simulations, animations, laser cutting, 3D printing were an important part of the development of the thesis and the movement was analysed, simulated and at a later stage manufactured as a physical model with the help of these methods. The simulations and animations enabled the initial quality of the movement like lightness and ephemerality to be reproduced which could not be done otherwise. Experiment 3 – Analysing Movement through simulations – Maya software
Another development of the thesis was the formation of a simulation of the species’ movement. I aimed for recreating its floatable and ephemeral quality so that a magical configuration to be formed. As a result catching this transparent and light movement and representing it appeared to be not so easy for reproducing.
Experiment 2 - Mapping Movement – Locomotion: Flying
Definition of locomotion bionics: “Walking, swimming and flying as primary forms of movement. Interaction with the surrounding medium.” The flight is a dynamic movement and has as a basic quality kinetic characteristics. Using the films I made I mapped the biological species locomotion and researched how exactly they moved. I decided to explore the movement of the wings in combination with a straight upwards flight. With the help of descriptive geometry and computing technologies the movement was possible to be reconstructed and abstracted into a diagram and presented as a three-dimensional surface. The analysing of the motion showed that the species do these incredible movement loops in the form of an eight while they flap with their wings.
Experiment 1 – How to come into a possession of a butterfly in the 21st century
As a first step for my research I needed to map the species movement in flight and explore their transformations therefore I needed a living organism. In opposition of the organic approach for design the thesis is about I used the most artificial process for providing with the insects. Speeding up all evolutionary and ecology processes I purchased the caterpillars from Amazon. Spending four weeks with them, taking care of the species and following their transformations led to required outcome. Finally I succeeded in capturing them by taking films of the beautiful creatures and using them for further explorations and analyses.
It is easy to lose one’s self in a space or in a landscape where you do not have a point of reference. When there is nothing familiar or easily recognisable like an object or a landmark which can orientate you in space, the boundary between what is real and what is not is almost invisible.
By positioning the cameras, which in a way show the observer’s point of view and what she sees at a particular point in space, we are trying to illustrate how effortlessly the sense of space can be lost.
Blank walls make the orientation difficult and at the same time you cannot define left and right, up and down.
Without an orientation the pictures create an atmosphere similar to the feeling when you get lost in a snow storm - you are lost in time and space. You travel in nothingness. Everything looks the same and you can go round and round forever. A blank white wall that often make people disorientated in relation to it but only for a while until they find their course again. A blank white wall is like a white canvas which waits to be filled with lines, objects and colours. Without those elements the wall is equal to nothingness.
While you rotate the photographs it is difficult to understand space and the position the photography has been taken from and to adjust yourself; everything could be so indistinct without having a point of reference.
In addition the formlessness of the shadows in contrast with the more geometrical forms does not allow you to explore what is behind the camera and what the shadows and lines represent.