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Interactive Architecture

Interactive architecture usually is limited to actions upon the facade because of the costs (interactive facades) and usually they bear their effects during night time. Dynamic actions (dynamic, participative interactive lightstages or projections) on the façade may lead to a higher identification of (potential) visitors and employees of the building e.g. a museum. The building is highlighted among its urban context. Aside light installations such as projections; there have been a few examples of material or dynamic facades and first dynamic architectures in the recent years.
l'institute du monde arabe, "Tower of the winds" and the "Sendai Mediatéque" by Toyo Ito, Nicolas Schöffer's "Tour Lumière Cybernétique" (T.L.C.), or Vladimir Tatlin's "Monument of the third International."

Instrumental: Blinkenlights/Arcade (2001)

The project “Arcade” (2002) by the group Chaos Computer Club, turned one façade of the French National Library in Paris into a display of 20x26 pixel, each of the 1040 windows a pixel. An editor with an intuitive interface could be downloaded via the web, enabling an audience from all over the (online) world to create animations (“films”) for this display. Two web cams were documenting the event online. A Short Message Gateway for mobiles was created as well, to which text messages could be send for display. Visitors also had the possibility of playing several games as Pong against one another or the computer, thus interrupting the stream of animations and messages during their session.

As Arcade allowed visitors to send text and visuals to spectators in the city of Paris as well as to other viewers all over the world via web cam it had a high social impact upon the participants - though the technology was relatively simple and cost efficient. Demonstrating the possibilities of simple hardware, networking and expertise.
The different means of interaction, from email, xml programming, SMS and tone dialling offered a wide freedom of expression and demonstrated the enormous potential that an even limited display of 20x26 pixel had to offer. Within a short while the participating anonymous individuals from all over the world grew steadily into a community, sharing, interacting and exchanging tips and tricks to create animations. Though the project has ended this group of worldwide participants still exists. The “message board” in the city of Paris created a competition for the most attractive animation among the participants and allowed visitors to express themselves anonymously, independent of age, gender etc..

Experiential: Tower of the Winds" (1986)

In Toyo Itos structure "Tower of the Winds" completed in 1986 in Yokohama, Japan. “A twenty-one-meter tower at the centre of a roundabout near Yokohama train station was covered with synthetic mirrored plates and encased in an oval aluminium cylinder: When lit, floodlights positioned between these two layers give the tower the appearance of a giant kaleidoscope. The reflective properties of the aluminium panels emphasize the tower’s simple metallic shape during the day. At night, the “kaleidoscope” is switched on, presenting a brilliant display of reflection on reflection. The tower contains 1280 mini-lamps and twelve bright white neon rings, arranged vertically. Thirty computer controlled floodlights (twenty-four on the inside, the others on the outside) make patterns of light within the tower; varying with the time of day. Natural elements such as noise and the speed and direction of the wind affect the intensity of the floodlights: the result is a controlled “natural” phenomenon. The panels sometimes appear to be of translucent film, while at others they seem to float to the surface.”
As one of the earliest interactive architectures “Tower of the Winds” is a good example for its vibrant and visually intense dialog with its surrounding, though the communicated visuals are the instant translation of what the visitor is hearing and perceiving at the same time. There is no message to be embedded in its change of state. It is what it is. As its appearance changes from being opaque during the day to a fragile lightness and transparency during the night it may surprise and catch the attention of passer-by’s for a long time. Since 1986 “Tower of the Winds” contributed to changing peoples expectations towards technology and architecture in an ephemeral and sensuous way.

A similar piece has been created 25 years earlier by Nicholas Schöffer for the town of Lüttich. Schöffer contructed a tower of 50 meters height in 1961. The structure contained microphones, photocells and devices to measure wind and precipitation to change its appearance as a reaction to its surrounding.
Wind visualisation (direction/speed) on top of the Kepco Building, Osaka, Japan:

last update: 1/7/02008 0:53

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