Living Architecture Lab

Director: David Benjamin

Political and cultural conditions change: what if the walls and windows morphed in response? Air and water quality fluctuate: what if a cloud of light above the river modulated its color as a public display of contamination? Demands for occupation of space shift across days, seasons, and years: what if traditionally mute and inert building materials appeared and disappeared accordingly?

A dynamic world calls for responsiveness. Responsiveness in architecture calls for new systems. New and untested systems call for full-scale prototyping.

The Living Architecture Lab experiments with new systems and adaptive technologies through open source, collaborative, hands-on design. The Lab aims both to make visible the invisible forces that shape our world, and to explore the potential for architecture to transform in real time based on these forces.

Each of the Lab's projects involves components for input, processing, and output. The components are upgradeable and swappable, and they range from off-the-shelf products to built-from-scratch elements. The goal is to integrate components into full-scale, functioning prototypes, and to apply new technologies and new forms of responsiveness to social and cultural issues.

Yet each project is a beginning rather than an end. Alternative components can be tested and new components integrated.

On a larger scale, the projects are designed as swappable modules in new and existing buildings. Modules can be upgraded without replacing the entire building.

With future development in mind, the Lab publishes source code, circuit diagrams, and assembly instructions. Emphasizing open-ended exploration, the Lab positions its projects as part of larger trajectories of design and construction, borrowing from the discoveries and technologies of others and also making its own findings and prototypes available for re-use and further development.

Precedent projects include:

Street Life, commissioned by the Shenzhen Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture, delivers scrolling LED messages from the Biennale to people eating street food at dai pai dongs around both cities. CNN reports.

Amphibious Architecture (New York, 2009) in the East River. Text "EastRiver" to 41411. Details at amphibiousarchitecture.net
Amphibious Architecture, commissioned by the Architectural League of New York for the fall 2009 Toward the Sentient City exhibition, is a floating installation in the East and Bronx Rivers that glows and blinks to provide an interface between life above water and life below.  Reports by BBCCurbedAzure MagazineTreehugger,Random Magazine, and Interactive Architecture

Living Light, commissioned by City Gallery and the Municipal Government of the City of Seoul, is a permanent outdoor pavilion in the heart of Seoul with a dynamic skin that glows and blinks to both data about air quality and public interest in the environment. Citizens can enter the pavilion or view it from nearby streets and buildings, and they can text message the building and it will text them back. Reports by h Magazine and  Discovery Channel Canada.

Living City, a project sponsored by the New York Prize Fellowship of the Van Alen Institute, is a platform for buildings to talk to one another. Winner of Architect Magazine R+D Award in 2008.

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