Bartlett School Of Architecture, UCL
critic: Jose SANCHEZ
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Angelopoulou DIMITRA, Karantaki MEROPI, & Diamanti VASILIKI: Wireflies explores the potentials of creating an architectural system through a playful design process. It is about user’s creative expression, who through decision making explores new strategies in architectural design.
The idea is to create an open sandbox video game as a discrete kit of parts that could be assembled and disassembled, resulting in different aggregations. Wireflies game explores new building blogs of architecture working around the collection of the wind energy and its distribution. Players can use light patterns to intuitively redefine the topology of the circuits and information networks that run through the building fabric.
Wireflies Project has been awarded with the silver award from The Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL).
The project revolves around the collection of wind energy and its distribution. More specifically, the system consists of 4 different types of components: the wings, the batteries, the wires and the laps or sockets. The wing captures the wind and converts it into energy (electricity), which is stored in the batteries. The produced energy flows through the network of wires, while the light/socket indicates the transmission and creates a glowing pattern. The components are kept together thanks to magnetic connections and the LED infrastructure detects the pressure of the system. The fundamental element, which provides the input to the system is the wing, the placement of which should be strategic, not only because it defines the structure, but also because of its functionality. It captures the air, introduces the energy to the system and generates the light pattern. The wings are constantly dynamic: they move, sense and react to the environment and to the wind characteristics. They are devices that can open up in the air, expand in order to channel and guide the air particles inside the component.
WIREFLIES AS A VIDEO GAME / APPLICATION
The main goal of their research was to prove out how game mechanics could suggest a new design thinking. The only way to do so was by releasing an operational prototype of the game in order to get and evaluate feedback from the data collection process. From the beginning Wireflies was not about a specific architectural outcome, but it was about making a link with the community of players that could hopefully suggest what is the fertile ground where this project could exist. The most interesting thing about designing Wireflies as a game in contrast to conventional design practices is that it offers multiple solutions to a certain problem according to the player’ s special desires and priorities. The challenge of the project had mostly to do with motivation and engagement of different users.
Therefore with the release of an operational prototype of the game, users from different backgrounds, who do not have any relation to architecture, can have access to it and send their feedback.
The project is establishing a relationship between the designer and the self-organized system and it repositions the role of the architect and the designer. The project suggests that self-organized systems need feedback from the moment they provide an output that informs the human element on the next decision-making step. The system allows the human element to observe the process, provides a continuous information flow that makes the designer or the user realize that he is interacting with the process, and finally, the system allows for human intervention.
WIREFLIES AS A PRODUCT
Wireflies has been developed both digitally and physically. Exploring how the digital version can become a product, models had been fabricated, in order to test the magnetic connections, the electricity transmission and the pattern continuity. The components create a circuit expressing all the computation behaviours they have in the digital model. The system operates by rotating the components so as to match the pattern and light it up. The elements had been carefully designed in more detail in order to hide the complexity that is behind and allow the user to create his system in a more playful way. Wireflies are planned to become a real product and to be released as a construction toy kit at first with a limited number of the basic components, while at a second stage, they are planned to progressively increase in number and scale.
Wireflies proved that it can work in simulation and it can work in reality. Furthermore, it is an example of providing architecture with another perspective. It gives architects the opportunity to design the structure manually as well as it lets the components, the building parts learn, replicate or find their way to compute.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
AD, KM, & DV: Jason Bruges’s “Wind to Light”, the cubelets, Minecraft, Ned Kahn’s wind installations, and Daniel Simon.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
AD, KM, & DV: Reading: Ian Bogost; MVRDV (Space Fighter); Kevin Kelly; Manuel DeLanda; and Timothy Morton. Listening to: Daft Punk. Watching: Tron: Legacy; Inception; 2001: A Space Odyssey; The Cube.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
AD, KM, & DV: Skylar Tibbits, Marc Fornes, Tomas Heatherwick, and Morphosis.