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  • coFLEXions: A Responsive Inflatable

    coFLEXions: A Responsive Inflatable
    cambridge MASSACHUSETTS

    Harvard GSD
    critics: mariana IBAÑEZ & simon KIM

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    brandon CUFFY, judy FULTON, & stacy MORTON: CoFLEXions is a responsive inflatable that creates a unique connection between the individual user, the collective, and a spatial environment. This responsive inflatable is a project that tests the implications of responsive architecture through formal and spatial means. As responsive technologies become readily accessible to architects and designers, they provide an opportunity for users to have unique agency over their spatial environments.

    In this project specifically, the ‘smart skin’ is designed to receive input in the form of flexure created by the users as they touch its exterior mylar surface. The sensors and actuators embedded within the fabric give users a specific and direct ‘output’ – the agency to regulate its form. The individual inside the inflatable, whose view of the exterior is impaired, experiences changes in his space as a result of their actions. An inflatable is characterized by the material qualities of its surfaces, primarily its ability to flexibly inflate or deflate. By embedding flex sensors within the skin, its surface is now designed to receive data inputs and respond through inflation or deflation. As the outside group interacts with the smart skin, sensors detect the distortion in flexure and immediately respond by redefining the form and in turn, altering the interior environment.

    While considerable research exists on responsive architecture that uses computerized systems to adapt the interior of a building to the needs of its residents, coFLEXions demonstrates the possibility for technology to become fully integrated into the skin of the structure and create a relationship between the interior and exterior. It also demonstrates the potential for a collective input to affect the spatial reality of an individual. This enables architects and users alike to reconsider the deployment of intelligent technologies to impact spatial relationships through more dynamic means.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    bC, jF, & sM: coFLEXions is the product of a seminar course at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design entitled Mechatronic Space taught by Mariana Ibanez and Simon Kim. As architecture incorporates innovative media and technologies, new design processes and new conditions of inhabitation are beginning to emerge. This seminar examined the design methods of dynamic relationships in architecture; stemming from the inspirations of roboticists, acoustical engineers, computer scientists, and media artists. It was through the various spatial understandings derived from each discipline that coFLEXions was able to develop into a comprehensive spatial experience.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    bC, jF, & sM: We were reading a combination of J.G. Ballard’s Vermillion Bay, works by Salvador Dali and Le Corbusier, the findings of Gordon Pask and Nicholas Negroponte, and the innovative inflatable experiments performed by Ant Farm.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    bC, jF, & sM: The current work of Olafur Eliasson, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. along with the historic E.A.T. collaboration “9 Evenings: Theater & Engineering.”

    Additional credits and links:
    This project was in conjunction with the Harvard Graduate School of Design; a seminar conducted by Mariana Ibañez & Simon Kim.

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