Actuated Matter

by Manuel Kretzer
10 Jun 2012 / 5874 Views


Actuated Matter 2.86/5 (22 votes)

The Actuated Matter Workshop explored the application of smart materials in architecture with respect to their ability to transform architecture into an “Emotive Environment”, a space that relates to its inhabitants in an emotive and responsive way. The focus was placed on the capabilities and limitations of materials themselves in generating kinetic, visual and acoustic feedback. The goal was to endow artificial spaces with some of the qualities of a natural environment in which perceptual, behavioral, emotional and social processes are interrelated and arise from its intrinsic properties. Natural environments grow, evolve and internalize the history of the actions and situations that occur within them, whereas technological systems tend toward perfection, predictability and permanence. The question arises on how we could incorporate aspects of organic systems within the new materials and new architectures?

The Actuated Matter Workshop took place at Zurich University of the Arts from July 25. – 29. 2011 and was co-run with London based Loop.pH design studio. During the workshop the twenty international participants developed a speculative model for membrane structures that exhibit properties of sensitivity, resilience, and decay. By physically engaging with the behaviors of active materials, they experimented with the threshold between the electronic and mechanic, the analog and the digital. The workshop followed a do-it-yourself approach and led to the development of sonic, luminous and moving modules that populated and activated the environment. The main structure was based on a three-dimensional ecology of interlinked loops, made from optical fibers, that formed a lightweight system with enough flexibility to become actuated but sufficient stiffness to support a multitude of components. The production of the active elements, electroluminescent screens, electro-active polymers and flexible audio panels, was strongly driven by the curiosity and engagement of an interdisciplinary team of participants who had little or no previous experience of working with such materials. The workshop showed that highly sophisticated materials and structures could be emerge through participatory and collaborative strategies, thus reflecting our goal of developing an alternative, less rigid architecture of the future as a more connected, interlaced, entangled, responsive and responsible world.


Katrin Bächli, Urban Bieri, Szilveszter Buzasi, Allison Dryer, Luke Franzke, Laura Kaehr, Moritz Kemper, Roman Kirschner, Jorge Orozco, Barbara Peikert, Margrit Rieben, Maria Smigielska, Andrés Villa Torres, Silvan Zurbruegg
Special Thanks
Romano Kirschbaumer and Jorge Ellert (Ulano Corp.), Christa Jordi (EMPA)

Karmen Franinovic, Florian Wile Interaction Design group, DDE, Zurich University of the Arts
Mathias Gmachl, Rachel Wingfield Loop.pH design studio
Manuel Kretzer Chair for Computer Aided Architectural Design, ITA, ETH, Zürich
Daniel Bisig Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology, DMU, Zurich University of the Arts

Zurich University of the Arts, 2011