Plane of Transformation

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In the galleries of the artist community of CaoChangDi Beijing, Tsunami Urban Furniture is forged by the force of a powerful wave – the formation of this public furniture object “Tsunami”  flows between sharp corners to reshape the gallery space.

Tsunami is creating a spatial transformation from the hard elements of the context to the fluid formation of the object itself where natures forces create a constant feedback between environment and artificial entities. It also provides the opportunity for people to sit and relax and meet, changing the users’ spatial experience through a topological transformation.

Project: Tsunami – Urban Furniture

Year: 2012.10

Team: Xu Feng, Nikolaus Wabnitz

Performance: Mirta Ciari

Sponsor/Fabricator: E-GROW Shanghai

Event: Beijing International Design Week 2012 / Installation / Furniture

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entropia | energy | form

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A project made in collaboration with Lebeuss Woods and Christoph Kumpuschbegins with the existing system of spatial organization, as embodied in Vienna’s buildings, streets, open spaces, and how they are presently inhabited. It sees them not as organized matter, but rather as organized energy. The visual language through which this understanding is expressed is one comprised of lines—constructed in two, three, and four dimensions–which we will call vectors.

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Vectors are mathematical symbols for expressing the direction and magnitude of forces active within or upon a system. In this project, the vector is expanded in meaning and application. It still retains its expressive function, only now including not only magnitude and direction of mechanical forces, but also the intensity and extensity of cognitive and affective forces both active and latent in the city. There is another aspect of the role vectors play in this project and in its projection of the present and future energy patterns of the city. The vectors not only express energy, they embody energy. Like other constructive elements used to build the city, they are elements of a system organizing the mechanical, cognitive and affective energy it took to make them, palpable energy that remains potential in their residual forms. If we can see vectors as forms of potential and kinetic energy, then we can see buildings that way, too, and the city itself. If we can see these things not simply as objects, but as embodied energy, then we can see ourselves and others not as material objects, but as living systems interacting continuously with other systems, both animate and inanimate.

This is a new way of seeing the familiar, at least for architects. Ecologists and theorists from fields as diverse as cybernetics and the life sciences have adopted similar points of view long ago. Architects retain a mechanical, materialist worldview, no doubt in part because of the nature of the people they work for, their clients, who see architecture as a product that relates only incidentally to other products, designed and paid for by others. The boundaries of a product are rigid, fitting into clients’ ideas of property, and consumers’ ideas of buying and owning. Systems, on the other hand, have flexible, often porous or fluid boundaries, depending on their interactions with other systems.

The energy-systems view of the city and its life have strong political implications, in particular, regarding prevailing ideas of identity and, its corollary, property. Individuals, in such a view, are identified not so much by what they ‘own’ or who they ‘are,’ according the social roles they play, but by what they ‘do,’ how they interact with others, including the inanimate systems in their environment. In the same way, buildings, public spaces, and other forms of property can no longer be identified according to building types set by pre-determined economic and functional categories, but by how they perform in a landscape shaped by complex interactions. What architects do with their own initiatives or those of others seriously impacts networks of interacting human and other energy flows, as well as the energies latent in the city. Their ways of thinking and working need to integrate this reality more than they do at present. In doing so, the role of the architect will be transformed into a more expansive and more complex one in the evolution of the urban landscape. The identity of architects—like that for whom they design—will be based on the depth of their mastery of particular skills and knowledge, but at the same time, on their agility in engaging an urban field of continually changing conditions. System Wien explores what the production of such architects might be.

Symmetry Breaking + information

extract from the ”Renewed Novelty of Symmetry by Greg Lynn”

”Therefore, symmetry breaking could be a sign of the incorporation of information into a system from the outside in order to unfold latent diversities. ”

Gregory Batterson looked at all of the monstrosities and mutations to find rules and laws, rather than looking at the norms. So, instead of trying to find the ideal type or the ideal average, he’d always look for the exception. So, in this example, which is an example of what’s called Bateson’s Rule, he has two kinds of mutations of a human thumb. So, what he found is that in all cases of thumb mutations, instead of having a thumb, you would either get another opposable thumb, or you would get four fingers. So, the mutations reverted to symmetry. And Bateson invented the concept of symmetry breaking, which is that wherever you lose information in a system, you revert back to symmetry. So, symmetry wasn’t the sign of order and organization — which is what I was always understanding, and as is an architect — symmetry was the absence of information. So, whenever you lost information, you’d move to symmetry; whenever you added information to a system, you would break symmetry. So, this whole idea of natural form shifted at that moment from looking for ideal shapes to looking for a combination of information and generic form.

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What is most striking about Bateson’s discoveries of the 1890’s is the rethinking of the relationship between order and variation and homogeneity and heterogeneity. Bateson’s insight, that was inherited by his son Gregory, was that a loss of information leads toward symmetry. This is obvious as iterative reduction through phenomenological variation is exactly that, the elimination of difference (or more technically what would be refered to as “alternations of deformation”) toward a reduced eidetic type. This insight equates difference with information; Gregory Bateson has gone as far as defining information as “the difference that makes the difference.” [4]

William Bateson did not arrive at this theory of symmetry through classical reduction to types but rather by beginning with a theory of variation itself [5]. What distinguished his views on symmetry and symmetry breaking was his explanatory rather than taxonomic perspective toward form, in order to theorize variation, outside of an irregular relationship to a norm. For Bateson, monstrosities and mutations were indexes of the polymorphic nature of repetition, growth and variation that responded specifically to particular temporal and environmental conditions. The similarity between this theory of polymorphism, Galton’s “multiple positions of organic stability” and later Waddington’s temporalization of the Galton-Bateson concept as epigenetic landscape has been argued by Gerry Webster [6].. Against Darwinists, Bateson postulated a theory of “essential diversity” rather than “random mutation” and organization through “discontinuous variation” rather than “gradualism.” As a teratologist he realized that even monstrosities adhere to recognizable forms of those classified as normal and they therefore might lead to a theory of order which does not treat the variant as merely contingent or extraneous, as he notes; variant forms are as definite and well formed as typical forms. The variations of monstrosities led him to a theory of diversity and differentiation. Like the earliest experimental morphologists such as August Trembley, [7] Bateson looked for typicality in the atypical.

For example, in the two mutations of the thumb, the monstrosities exhibit higher degrees of symmetry about a mirror axis than is exhibitted in the normal hand. In the place of the asymmetry between four fingers and thumb there is a symmetry of four fingers reflected along the axis of the hand. In the other case within the assymetry of the thumb to four fingers is nested a second level of symmetry between the normal thumb and an extra thumb that is opposed to it in a mirror plane. This realization that there were classes of mutations that exhibited higher degrees of symmetry than the normal led to two possibilities. The taxonomic assumption would locate extra information at the point of mutation in order to explain the higher degree of symmetry and the increases in homogeneity and sameness. Bateson proposed an alternative whereby the increase in symmetry and decrease in complexity and heterogeneity was an index of a loss of information. Where the information for the thumb was decreased the growth reverted back to a default value of mirror symmetry. Thus symmetry was not an underlying principle of the essential order of the “whole organism” but was instead a default value of simple disorganization. Moreover, symmetry was not a global attribute of the whole, but rather was an aspect of generative and regenerative processes. The organism or order was not attributable to some reduced simplified type but was rather the result of dynamic non-linear interactions of internal directives, the viscissitudes of a disorganized context, and the organized context or generative fields that are configured by a flexible and adaptable system of integrating differences. For these morphological processes he invented the term “genetics.” “Genes” were not generators but modifiers of morphology as his theory was that information was intermittently applied during growth and development to regulate more general autonomous growth processes. Genes did not provide a blueprint in his theory but would guide development at critical junctures.

The location of the information that makes the difference was still in need of theorization by Bateson. He argued that these variations were specific responses of a biological system to perturbations that could be either environmental or genetic (opening the door in a very provocative way to Lamarkian inheritance of acquired characteristics developed through somatic evolution). Therefore, symmetry breaking could be a sign of the incorporation of information into a system from the outside in order to unfold latent diversities.

Thus contexts tend towards entropy. Contexts lack specific organization and the information that they provide tends to be general. In this regard contexts might be understood as entropic in their homogeneity and the uniform distribution of differences. Information and difference are being used here almost interchangeably, and homogeneity is understood as a sameness of differences or a lack of information. Thus, homogeneity and disorganization, or lack of difference, is a characteristic of symmetry.

Adaptive catalysts configure that information into organizations by breaking their own internal symmetry or homogeneity. Symmetry breaking should not be confused with a simple dialectic of assymetry, just as exact geometries do not dialectically invert into inexact forms. Rather, symmetry breaking from the exact to the anexact indexes the incorporation of generalized external information into a dynamic, flexible, and temporally and contextually specific stability. Symmetry, and any exact form for that matter, indicates a lack of order due to a lack of interaction with larger forces and environments. Deep structure and typology are just what they seem to be; suspect, reductive, empty and bankrupt. But, once triggered by generalized and unpredictable external influences (it must be emphatically maintained that “context” is meaningless and in and of itself it is unorganized, and “organized context” requires an agent of differentiation) these “types” unfold through differentiation into highly heterogeneous yet continuous organizations. Once put into a non-linear relationship with external forces a directed indeterminacy becomes a robust system for the unfolding of unforeseen and unpredictable dynamic organizations and stabilities.

 


object _ product & technology

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Gregg Lynn presented his microclimate chair designed for basketball players as they rest on the sidelines between game play. He claims that consumers were increasingly expecting better performance from their furniture, but design-led companies were failing to act.

“I think probably the furniture industry is slow to engage technology,” “It’ll either happen or they’ll disappear.”

The chair has integrated heat and weight sensors so it can cool and heat athletes between periods of inactivity, as well as monitor the amount of fluid lost.

“We can bring the core temperature of an athlete down by cooling their spine and stop them from cramping up by heating their calves and thighs,” he added. “That is why Nike is interesting, not because it is a bad idea to make a chair, but I think it is more interesting to make a piece of technology.”

”For me, the collaboration was not so much taking Nike materials, but taking Nike intelligence about athletes. I started with the idea of making an object that was like the shoes – very, very light with minimal materials, and I brought this carbon, which is kind of rigid and then it becomes flexible. It is honestly the first time anyone has made a carbon object that has flexibility and rigidity in the same sheet.

We met with Nike biologists, Nike trainers, even talked to athletes and found out what the key issues were. One is how much fluid they lose, so there is a weight sensor in three corners so if someone is in a game, they get weighed at the start and then every time they come in and out of the game we can record their weight, so we know how much fluid they lost. The other thing is there are temperature sensors at the back of their legs and arms where there is no uniform, so we can take their skin temperature.

Then all these heat things are related to Peltier clusters which we can put electricity through and selectively heat and cool, so we can bring the core temperature of an athlete down by cooling their spine and stop them from cramping up by heating their calves and thighs.

So the whole chair becomes a heating and cooling surface, that takes away moisture and cools them down, then the whole perimeter is an air diffuser that has pumped air in so it is like this environment, or incubator.”

Re-define the product and its’ branding

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Designer Hella Jongerius and theorist Louise Schouwenberg launched a manifesto calling for an end to “pointless products, commercial hypes and empty rhetoric” in design.

The Beyond the New manifesto, calls on the profession to abandon its “obsession with the new for the sake of the new”.

Instead, the profession should take the lead and help persuade the industry to revert to the values of the pioneering designers of the last century, they argue.

The manifesto “deplores how the discipline lacks an intimate interweaving of the values that once inspired designers, as well as the producers of their ideas: making the highest possible quality accessible to many people.”

“It is absurd and arrogant to begin the design process with an empty piece of paper,” Jongerius and Schouwenberg say in a broadside against the obsession with developing new products. “Cultural and historical awareness are woven into the DNA of any worthwhile product.”

The manifesto also attacks design fairs, describing them as “depressing”.

“What most design events have in common are the presentations of a depressing cornucopia of pointless products, commercial hypes around presumed innovations, and empty rhetoric,” the manifesto says.

Printed versions of the manifesto, designed by Studio Joost Grootens will be distributed in Milan next week during the annual Salone del Mobile furniture fair.

Jongerius, widely regarded as the world’s most influential female designer, first went public with her thoughts on the design world in a lecture at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town earlier this year, saying there was “too much shit design”.

“Designers have a responsibility here,” she argued in her lecture. “I am calling for a new holistic approach to design.”

The Beyond the New manifesto takes her thinking further and was written in collaboration with Schouwenberg, who is head of the master’s programme Contextual Design at Design Academy Eindhoven, author of a book about Jongerius.

The manifesto comes at a time of increasing unease within the design world about the public perception of the discipline and the way design fairs are becoming dominated by marketing.

Design critic Alice Rawsthorn recently argued that the annual Salone del Mobile and its fringe events have “unintentionally reinforced the popular stereotype of design as a superficial, stylistic tool steeped in consumerism”.

Rawsthorn quoted designer Jasper Morrison as saying the Salone del Mobile has become the “Salone del Marketing”.

Dezeen columnist Lucas Verweij  wrote that the “intrusion of branding and marketing, selling personalities over design, has become like an annoying commercial break that interrupts a good film.”


 

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Redefining the object _No object is static everything is open to change

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Dutch designer Hella Jongerius has arranged pieces of Vitra furniture by shade to create a rainbow-hued installation displaying the brand’s colour and material library. Jongerius designed the Colour Machine installation for the temporary CasaVitra location near Milan’s Corso Como, with the aim of bringing the company’s archive of colours and materials to life.”The concept of the Vitra Colour & Material Library starts with organising all colours in four contrasting colour worlds: the reds, the lights, the greens and the darks.The library is like a living and growing organism – no colour is static, everything is open to change,” she continued. “The internal structure of the colour wheels keeps many options open.” Four giant spinning tops twirling on the floor were used to present the full range of the Swiss brand’s materials in four categories: light colours, dark colours, greens and reds.

Nine revolving colour wheels suspended above the space were each made from parts of contemporary and classic Vitra furniture pieces, including the base of the EM Table by French architect Jean Prouvé or the Plastic Chair by designers Charles and Ray Eames. Jongerius’ installation is the result of a long-term project in collaboration with the Swiss company aiming to study the properties and possibilities of the colours, textures, finishes and materials in its product portfolio.

The idea is to use this information to help the brand refresh its existing ranges, instead of just finding new designs to put into production.

“The goal of the joint project is to establish an intelligent system that makes it easy to create rich environments in offices, homes or public spaces,” said Vitra’s chief design officer Eckart Maise.

“In a multi-year project, hundreds of new references were created and applied to Vitra’s wide product range,” he continued. “Product by product, a dialogue with the designers, product management and technical teams has resulted in a process of designing, prototyping and finally defining new or updated versions full of life and energy.”

Jongerius is widely recognised as one of the world’s most influential female designers. She founded her studio Jongeriuslab in Rotterdam in 1993 after studying at Design Academy Eindhoven, and relocated to Berlin in 2008.

On 2015  Jongerius launched a manifesto calling for an end to “pointless products, commercial hypes and empty rhetoric” in design. (following post)

 

robotics_biomimicry_new material research

Elytra Filament Pavilion will explore the impact of emerging robotic technologies on architectural design, engineering and making. Inspired by a lightweight construction principle found in nature, the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra, the Pavilion will be an undulating canopy of tightly-woven carbon fibre cells created using a novel robotic production process.

The Pavilion will grow over the course of the V&A Engineering Season in response to data on structural behaviour and patterns of inhabitation of the Garden that will be captured by real-time sensors in its canopy fibres. At select moments, visitors will have the opportunity to witness the Pavilion’s construction live throughout the Season as new cells are fabricated in-situ by a Kuka robot.