Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Form Follows Movement - Crooked House

Seifert Surface 'The Crooked House'

This project is over a year old but I feel the need to mention it due to its truly innovative kinetic characteristics. The concept of this house was based upon a mathmatical formula reminiscint of a mobius strip.

The dominant feature of the Mobius Strip is it's singular surface. As the story goes, if you walk an ant along the surface, it would cover the entire surface in its journey. There is no inside or outside to the strip, it is considered one surface formed by cutting a loop and twisting it once before reattaching. This is possible only because the 2D surface has been pulled into a 3D space which allows the surface to deform into the 3rd dimension.

Back to the house.. The Crooked House is divided into a series of rooms; each with 6 entry points. As the visiting avatar activates the house and moves from one room to another, the house reconfigures itself real-time to the path of the avatar. In other words, as you open a door to another room, the house rotates another room to the other side of the door the avatar will pass through. The result is that as the avatar walks in a straight line in one direction, they actually keep walking through the same rooms of the house again and again. This invokes the idea of the Mobius Strip because the avatar can walk in one direction and cover the same ground over and over. Like the 3rd dimension enables the 2D ring to become the mobius strip, so the 4th dimension allows the 3D house to take on these conceptual kinetic properties.

As it currently functions, I think the house only responds to a single avatar's movement. Because the house must move one room at a time, there is no function that allows multiple avatars to be able to manipulate the environment. In some sense the project exhibits characteristics of Emergence, but this is hampered by the inability for more than one avatar to engage the system at one time. For example, if we were able to track the shifting form of the building over time, we might be able to find patterns that develop as multiple users engage with and constantly reform the environment. This may also be the case for a single avatar (as form follows movement) but this would be greatly heightened by the house's engagement with multiple avatars.

I would classify this project as a 'Reactive' design becuase of its lack of proactive engagement with the avatar. The house responds to movement, but does not necessarily encourage or discourage behavior of a certain kind. This does not at all detract from the project and I think the addition of this feature might overcomplicate it. The final 4D form is both a combination of the mathematical concept driving the building's kinetic response as well as the intentions of the user. The resultant shifting form of the building is a comination of the purity of mathmatical formula combined with the messy territory of human choice and free will. Truly an exeptional idea and execution of that idea.

There is a great write-up and videos of this project at the following link..

As you can see here, the orientation of the room also shifts with the placement of that room. The result produces some interesting new perspectives on traditional spatial relationships.

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