Adventures in Smartsurfaces

Just another weblog

And back to our last project… October 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachelboswell @ 10:51 am

Tada! Here is our finished model in action. Well, in as much action as a photo allows, sorry I don’t have video.


We constructed the wall in such a way as to allow all of our strings and pulling mechanisms to move freely. The base is an acrylic sheet drilled with about a million holes for fishing line that was strung through each panel on the facade. Six servos pulled the strings to peel the finger panels away from the building facade. Servos are not terribly strong, however, so we had to pick and choose an assortment of panel units to move while others remained stationary.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this model is the fact that the model does not actually represent the way we envisioned that our project would perform in ‘real life’. Our model was fiction, so to speak, which played along nicely with last week’s theme of mashing together science fact and science fiction into one practice. This concept, a sort of brainchild of Julian Bleecker, our guest speaker and author of an essay titled ‘Design Fiction’, allows one to imagine stories of possible ‘near futures’ and the technology that might be used in them, or perhaps to imagine a story to go along with a proposed product design so as to test its viability in context. In ‘real life’ we envisioned a facade absent of mechanical components such as servos. Instead, we saw the ¬†movement of the panels as natural, organic, and completely dependent on the sun and the amount of light by using a material that bended or curved in response to light or heat conditions. We looked into bi-metals and other materials that could be layered in such a way to produce our desired effect.

In addition to our constructed model, we brainstormed other ways in which the basic concept could be applied.

blindsIn the example above, the panels are attached to the facade at both ends and bend only in the middle. The effect is similar to when your neighbor peeks through the blinds to see what you are up to. When an entire facade is covered in this way, the building takes on an ethereal character as some areas are opaque and fade into transparency. We imagined the movement of the slats to be dependent on the sun of course, so as to employ heliotropism, but there is an existing building that uses a similar mechanical device by architects Herzog and De Meuron:



We also thought about creating an undulating surface with panels. I had some difficulty using the Digital Project software and the power copy function, so I hope you can get the idea from these images:



With gaps in between the rows of panels and the entire facade covered, the aesthetic affect would be both interesting and beautiful. Another idea would be to combine the curving motion of the Herzog and De Meuron building with this motif so that the panels would move in and out and angle to direct sunlight in a particular way.

All in all, a successful project, and it really got us thinking about the ‘why’. We have already been applying our experience from this project to our final project, about which I will blog soon. I promise!


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