UCLA Architecture and Urban Design
Advanced Topics Studio
Researchers: Raman K. Mustafa, Refik Anadol, Julieta Gil and Farzad Mirshafiei
Instructors: Güvenç Ozel and Casey Reas

Transmutating the Real and the Ethereal

As a part of UCLA Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD) advanced topics design studio “Architectural Intelligence: Exploring Space as an Interactive Medium,” researchers Refik Anadol, Raman Mustafa, Julietta Gil and Farzad Mirshafiei created “The Aether Project¨ an immersive interactive environment that seamlessly combines robotic actuation, formal transformation and real time projection mapping controlled by a sensory input device. The course lead by Guvenc Ozel, Technology Director of the new IDEAS platform of UCLA A.UD, in collaboration with Casey Reas, Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts, explored potential scenarios of architecture as a responsive, robotically actuated technology, which undergoes spatial iterations triggered by sense based devices.

The evolution of technology reveals an aspiration to place mind into matter in order to create tools that are subservient yet autonomous from humans. Architecture as a form of technology does not exist outside of this cultural aspiration. Concurrently, experiments in sensing technology express this desire to transform architecture into an intelligent form of technology that can autonomously negotiate between the human body, human psyche, the environment and other physical and perceptual parameters. Based on this premise, the Aether Project focuses on providing an immersive experience through real time Leap Motion controlled system that synchronously aligns projection mapped visuals on a transforming surface geometry, both choreographed though robot movements. Thus, “The Aether Project” is designed to test the interaction between humans x robots, robot x robot, and the resulting recursive relationship between technology and human perception continuously. Mediating between aforementioned technological and theoretical paradigms, the system culminates into a spatial environment that is conscious of its inhabitant(s) through sensing technology. It achieves this by taking human inputs (hand gestures) and translates them into real time formal deformation through choreographed robot movement. Concurrently, this affects the projection mapping as the system recalculates the resultant surfaces onto which it must accurately project. The synchronous projection, consisting of graphics that enhances and suppresses notions such as geometry, depth, shadow and color, thus creates a multiplicity of transforming perceptions. As the project produces a synchronous relationship between the robots and humans, it blurs the boundary between the robotic system and the human participant; exploring the role which humans serve in this apparent†intelligence† along with how the space and ambience created through their combination would in turn affect humans in a continuous feedback loop. This cybernetic system where the observer is also a part of the system itself proposes a potential for an active form of architecture where behavior takes precedent over form and interaction becomes the new design medium.



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