Programmable Architecture

-Towards Human Interactive, Cybernetic Architecture-

Kensuke Hotta (B.Eng, M.Eng, Msc)
Architectural Association School of Architecture, 2013

8-1. Answer to Research Questions

The original proposition could be re-stated as follows.

If intelligent responses can be incorporated into architectural systems, integrating both autonomous systems and user input, then it follows that PA (programable architecture) can increase a building’s adaptability.

The first point in the proposition has already been tested in the early chapters. Both the hardware and software must be well-designed to create this dynamic system. Because the proposed system is a cybernetic system, both elements are inextricably connected and cannot be detached. If the hardware does not have changeability, the system cannot represent the necessary myriad of variations. On the other hand, even if the hardware works well, it is not easy to be controlled without adequate software. When the situation changes, its behaviour is affected, leading to changes in function.

The second point in the proposition relates to the autonomous system (pure GA), which was tested in chapter 6 but could not produce the required illumination level. Then from this reflection, in chapter 7, a controlling model was proposed and tested. A combination between machine optimization and human intelligence gave a relatively effective result. Effective results, in this instance, were equivalent to achieving the objective illumination level.

This research affirms the above proposition and provides an approach for developing and integrating the various aspects of programmable architecture, which will be helpful to others wanting to develop environmentally responsive buildings.

Due to time and resource limits, this thesis had a narrow focus. Several issues must be addressed before this project can be realized in a commercial setting. The first of these is scalability. This research was carried out using models, the largest size of a small room. That it is a new technology, and one cannot assume the building components exist for full-size project implementation. Instead, as the full-scale building is built, components will have to be redesigned and tested. This is further described in sections 8-2. This highlights the second concern, namely the physical testing of the models. In this research, much time-based experimentation was carried out through computer simulation. This needs to be complemented with testing of actually built systems. This is detailed in sections 8-3. Finally, this thesis focused on the issue of illumination. Similar work will need to be carried out for a fully environmentally responsive building with other environmental stimuli such as sound, heat, air quality, etc. This is further elaborated in sections 8-4.








8-2. Future Work, Scaling up Towards Real Buildings

Two examples of project models are shown below. The first work is a small tea room with a tensegrity roof, exhibited at the Kinetica Art fair 2013. The dimensions of this cubic were approximately 2m by 2m by 2m, so the roof dimensions were also 2m by 2m. The second project model was part of an exhibition at Tokyo Japan 2013, slightly bigger. These installations reveal some of the problems of scaling. One can see the model sagging, especially toward the middle of the roof. The balance between the roof's flexibility and weight change with the change of scale. The appropriate solution to address, for example, the stiffness of the central suspension changes with scale. On a larger scale, the structure needs something extra system to solve this issue.

8-2. 今後の課題、実建築物へのスケールアップについて


Fig8-2,1 : 'Interactive Tea Room' InstallationThis picture is a scene from the Kinetica Art fair 2013, in London. The room’s dimensions are 2m by 2m by 2m. The roof is made of the proposed tensegrity structure. The structure reacts to an array of pressure sensors on the floor under floor panel. As the visitor sits down the above part of the structure will open and give the light from the sky. The user can thus interact with the building and its surrounding environment.
Fig8-2,1:「インタラクティブ・ティールーム」インスタレーションこの写真は、ロンドンで開催された「Kinetica Art fair 2013」での一コマです。部屋の寸法は、2m×2m×2mです。屋根は、提案されているテンセグリティー構造でできています。この構造は、床下パネルに設置された圧力センサーの配列に反応する。観客が座ると、構造体の上の部分が開き、空からの光が差し込む。このように、ユーザーは建物やその周辺環境とインタラクションすることができます。
Fig8-2,2 : Hagiso InstallationThis picture is from the Japan Junction exhibition at Hagiso Japan 2013. The user can control the array of tensegritic roof panels wirelessly using an iPad. The model scale is approach one to one but in so doing it reveals some problem such as sagging.
Fig8-2,2 : ハギソーでのインスタレーションこの写真は、Hagiso Japan 2013のJapan Junctionの展示から。テンセグラスの屋根のパネルを、iPadを使ってワイヤレスで操作することができます。模型の縮尺は1対1に近いですが、その分、たるみなどの問題点が見えてきます。

8-3. Future Work, Towards Physical Experiment

In chapters 6 and 7, computer based simulated experiments were used. As you can see in the above figure, author also attempted to use constructed physical models (chapters 4-8). Two different method exist to connect the simulation with the physical robotic roof. One method uses the software 'Firefly' controlling the system through Rhino/Grasshopper. The other involves a direct coding connection between the processing computer and Arduino through a serial transformation. Both methods were tested and worked.

Physical experimentation has not used as the primary research tool for several reasons.

1. the Scaling problem (as mentioned above)

2. Sensing methods - for instance the light sensor above was required in large numbers and was prohibitively expensive.

3. Material problems - controlling the quality of the material in the physical models was problematic. For example the opacity of the material of the roof membrane fluctuated a great deal even in a small sample.

4. Space - The experiment needed an appropriate space. For example, in the above set-up the roof was placed vertically on the wall, meaning gravity affected its movement adversely.

For future realization of this proposal the physical experiment needs to be carried with the goals of generating results similar to the simulated ones.

8-3. 今後の課題、物理実験に向けて




2. センシング方法 - 例えば、上記の光センサーは大量に必要であり、法外に高価であった

3. 材料の問題 - 物理的なモデルで材料の品質をコントロールすることは問題でした。例えば、屋根の膜材の不透明度は、少量のサンプルでも大きく変動していた。

4.スペースの問題 - 実験には適切な実験スペースが必要でした。例えば、上記の実験では、屋根が壁に垂直に設置されているため、重力の影響を受け、動きが悪くなってしまう。


8-4. Future Work, Addressing Various Environmental Stimuli and Other Concerns

All the experiments in this thesis focused on lighting illumination levels. However in the original thesis aims and objectives (p.18) various types of environmental stimulus, such as sound, heat, air, temperature, etc. are mentioned. A true cybernetic architectural system has to deal with all those elements. There is no doubt GA would able to mediate a great number of environmental sources but the methodology needs to be expanded and tested.

In this case a single structure is considered but if this sort of cybernetic architecture is realized, what going to happen between two buildings? Can they boost each others adaptability? Will they attempt to compete against each other? Alongside adapting to environmental factors and human input, the system has to have adaptability to other buildings. This relationship will also need to be tested.

8-4. 今後の課題、様々な環境刺激への対応、その他の懸念事項



8-5. Future Structures

While sections 8-2 through 8-4 highlight the rather formidable work ahead to realize fully programmable architecture, there is scope to start creating structures incrementally. Section 8-2 highlights two human-scale implementations of programmable architecture. These could be expanded and tested in other small to mid-size structures, slowly building up a portfolio of successful implementations of cybernetic architecture. In chapter 4, when addressing the issue of environmental input, the term ‘layers’ is used to refer to illumination, sound, air and other environmental. One could see a series of future structures successively adding more and more ‘layers’ that address more and more environmental factors and become increasingly intelligent. Thus, while this proposal is somewhat theoretical, as presented, it could be implemented soon with the application of adequate resources.

8-5. 将来の構造体

このセクション8-2から8-4は、提案するプログラマブル・アーキテクチャを実現するためのかなり手ごわい作業群を強調したが、段階的に構造を作り始める余地もある。セクション 8-2 では、プログラマブルアーキテクチャのヒューマンスケールの実装を 2 つ紹介した。これらは他の小中規模の構造物にも拡張してテストすることができ、サイバネティック建築の実装を成功させるためのポートフォリオを徐々に構築していくことができるだろう。第4章では、環境入力の問題を扱う際に、照明、音、空気、その他の環境を指す言葉として「レイヤー」が使われている。将来的には、より多くの環境要因に対応する「レイヤー」を順次追加し、よりインテリジェントな構造になっていくという一連の流れを見ることができるだろう。このように、この提案はやや理論的ではあるが、提示されたように、十分なリソースを適用すれば、部分的にはすぐにでも実現可能なものである。