Workshop Theme

Over the past 10 years, autonomy, adaptability, customization and communication have been the most common words used to describe the qualities of Information Technology devices that facilitate everyday activities. IT is now ubiquitous, being integrated into almost everything people get their hands on. It is not strange then that the spearhead of architectural research today engages with more elaborate and sophisticated issues regarding the implementation of these technologies in an effort to create more demanding environments. One such direction that shows great potential is the integration of information technologies systems into the living space. The know-how to perform such a feature is available and the potential for architecture is significant. Already innovators in the field from around the world have created a test bed for the integration of IT into the core of the production of space. These research efforts open up the way for architecture to extend its inquiry beyond the Vitruvian triptych and design spatial behaviors. Embedded interactivity in places that were long regarded inert opened up new possibilities for the human experience. Intelligent control systems are able to enhance the functionality of space, create provocative aesthetics and instigate radical changes in everyday life as we know it. Moreover, contemporary social conditions seem to be addressed better through the acquired connectivity.

The natural paradigm, the development of more powerful and intuitive software as well as the ability to experiment with electronic assemblies facilitated an ever-growing tendency for responsive architecture. One of the most significant shifts of the contemporary architectural thinking in our fast changing world is our strong inclination toward an innovative experimentation adaptable to the speed of changes occurring in our mind, soul and body. One could argue that the whole practice is moving toward responsiveness today. The design tools aim to respond to users’ needs, fabrication methods are developed to respond to design idiosyncrasies and space is designed to respond to human behavior and environmental conditions. The next logical step then is to put 'sense' to this response and create a context for the way space performs and the way it learns from the past: a sensponsive architecture.

The overall discourse of the workshop revolves around the contextual and material frameworks of mediums, tools and techniques to create sensponsive environments that extend from useful to collaborative, developing a "sense" of their own. This year’s theme involves the design of an intriguing space for children with responsive partitions that will create playful learning pathways. The participants are to design the physical characteristics and the spatial behavior that will better facilitate a learning scenario. The design and construction of the partitions will be made out of simple materials, like fabric, paper, plastic and wood, and will be fabricated in parts to be assembled in a flexible way. The kinetic parts will be controlled via Arduino controllers, directly programmed through Grasshopper/Rhino. The workshop intents to explore the potential of the newly emerged bridge between design tools, such as Rhino, and programming controllers that Firefly presented.

The scenarios that the participants have to address are related to the following three topics:
1. Life-cycles: Create spatial configurations to help children understand the notions of 'time' and 'change' through play.
2. Storytelling: Create spatial configurations to help children develop their narrative and memory skills through play.
3. Traces: Create spatial configurations to help children understand their body by getting feedback from the movement of its parts through play.

Each team will be assigned one scenario to explore and address the issues emerging from it. Ideally, all three projects could be combined in the end to produce a complete behavioral spatial asset that can be integrated in educational and/or recreational spaces. The students have to go through certain phases to achieve the task at hand, in more or less detail according to their approach. The thresholds identified are described as follows:
The proposed steps, regarding the initial phases, are:
- Figure out an intriguing way to play out the assigned scenario. Develop a design scheme that can facilitate and enhance the activity and the experience of the children involved.
- Work out how the design approach can address different types of activity intensity and adjust its manifestation accordingly.
- Construct small conceptual mockups.
Design / Technical
After the conceptual phase, there will be two distinct parallel workflows, regardless if people work on both directions. One will be researching the design issues and the form details while the other will be developing the code for the behavioral patterns and the structural details of the whole scheme. The proposed steps are:
- Figure out the critical parameters that identify the activity of the children according to each scenario.
- Choose the type of sensors appropriate to capture the quantitative and qualitative features of the set parameters that will help you identify the activity and its intensity.
- Set up a crude neural network to process this data.
- Bring this information in the design environment and align/synchronize it with the design approach that assists/augments the spatial and learning experience of the children.
- Clarify the process of "sensor input/monitor situation - identify activity - decide response according to spatial and behavioral design - activate response through proper fabricated elements and mechanisms - feedback the new arrangement to the design environment - loop".
Fabrication / Presentation
The last phase of the workshop will be the presentation of the projects supported by a working prototype. The proposed steps are:
- Finalize the representations that illustrate the process, how the project works and how it should look at a finalized state.
- Assemble the basic electronic infrastructure.
- Fabricate the necessary parts to create the spatial elements that can be assembled to a functional, even if crude, prototype.

The workshop will be structured upon design work and technical experimentations with physical assemblies through a Grasshoper - Firefly - Arduino combination. Participants will have access to a fabrication laboratory with 2 laser cutters, a CNC router and a 3d printer.

The call is directed mainly to students of architecture but is also extended to students from the disciplines of computer science, material science, and environmental psychology.

Finally, all projects will be exhibited at the Center of Mediterranean Architecture (KAM-CMA) from the 30th of August to the 6th of September during the 2011 ENHSA/EAAE International Conference titled Rethinking the Human in Technology-Driven Architecture and the 14th ENHSA/EAAE Meeting of Heads of Schools of Architecture titled Doing More with Less: Architectural Education in Challenging Times.

All students participating at the workshop will have free access to the keynote lectures by Manuel De Landa, Edith Ackermann, Antonino Saggio and Kostas Terzidis. Francois Roche had to cancel his lecture due to unforeseen circumstances.