Last June, 31 students took part in the AA Athens Visiting School and AKTO Art & Design College's "Symmetry Sentience" workshop, where students research and ultimately realize a large-scale prototype installation. Under the guidance of director Alexandros Kallegias along with six international tutors, the two-phase workshop gave students the chance to learn various digital fabrication and large-scale prototyping techniques.
As the AAVS program usually goes, students are first exposed to basic and advanced tutorials in generative design algorithms and analysis tools during the first phase. They also learn from team-based tutorials, lectures, and presentations by Dr. George Jeronimidis, Enrico Dini and Dr. Sean Hanna. After dividing into groups, the students apply their skills and research in creating design proposals that would later contribute to the final installation.
Combining the team proposals, the students and the tutors design and bring the final prototype to life in the second phase. For this particular program, the students created "Flexion", a kinetic mobile-like prototype that is currently installed at the entrance of AKTO Art & Design College.
Keep reading for a recap of the workshop.
"The final 1:1 scale kinetic prototype Flexion is a suspended canopy of 4 meters in length and 1 meter in width. This structure is made out of 1 mega 'brain', 2 massive rotary 'muscle' actuators, 72 metal flywheels, 120 transparent Perspex moveable pieces, 300 meters of wiring and 480 connecting knots."
"The ability to detect human presence via Arduino distance sensors triggers the actuators that rotate and in turn set in motion the triangulated pieces of the canopy. A strategic arrangement of the triangles position in relation to the length of their hanging strings creates an intricate choreography of lighting effects that are visible by the sunrays during the day or the artificial lighting of the LEDs during the night. The aim is to challenge in this manner the phenomenon of perceptual constancy through moving transparent forms and immaterial shapes."
"Currently installed at the entrance of AKTO College of Art & Design, the prototype hovers above the ground with its transparent acrylic triangulated pieces moving in choreography while being illuminated by a set of LEDs."
In the first phase of the workshop, students divided into teams and came up with proposals that they later applied in designing Flexion. Check out the proposals below, along with a selection of images.
Transforming Terrain Design Team [Xrysi Kolovou, Ariss Majid, Andreas Petras, Ioanna Siviti, Asimina Georgia Tsakona, Eirini Viaropoulou]
"The project was inspired by the effect of stretched fabric and the various shapes that appear on a surface. The main interest was focused on a continuously changing terrain that is a result of symmetrical, controlled movement (spread out / gather together) that creates an architectural piece with ongoing possibilities of shapes through interaction. Possible solutions that could give a variety of movement and symmetrical effects we investigated but with no short repetition. The shapes, sizes and connections of the moving pieces were parameters that played a major role on the final moving result. Furthermore, the interaction of the system with an approaching object was introduced.
Overall, having to deal with various possible movements at the same time, controlled or uncontrollable and the ever-changing architectural piece that is a created, became the team’s innovative approach of thinking when creating a piece of architecture."
Coffee Monsters Team [Nicoletta Afentouli, Phoebe Fotinaki, Philippe-Raphael Hadjisymeou, Omer Kirazoglu, Petros Partalidis]
"In the agenda of Symmetry Sentience 'Active Bending' is a generative robotic installation populated by free flowing curvatures, which respond to human engagement. Using a real-time ultrasonic tracking system that can locate people and detect distance, each form has the capacity to process data in order to interact accordingly. Imagined and developed through means of digital computation, 'Active Bending' draws its inspiration from the AKTO building curvature. The initial studies were in the manipulation of the movement of the curve in order to create a more freer-flowing, light weight structure. The final form was accomplished through material experiments, within the design constraints."
Creature_Still to Be Determined Team [Katerina Bakaliou, Chrysanthi Sini, Achilles Malamos, Sander Paling, Neil Grewal]
"Inspired by the creatures inhabiting the tropical sea regions, the team focused on deciphering the form characteristics of the tetraodontidae also known as puffer fish. Its particular morphology with thinner external spines together with its natural defence mechanism to fill with air or water its elastic stomach to take an almost spherical shape acted as the starting point of their interactive design investigations. The aim of the canopy project has been to create a dual effect regarding the interaction between the built prototype and the person under it. As the person moves along the length of the prototype the various design stripes begin to curve and rearrange the position of the spine elements attached to them. Initially the stripes are placed to form a convex arc with the spines pointing outwards. While the person approaches the stripes change to a concave arc bringing the spines closer to each other and to the person. In this manner the dual effect is enabled by having a more intimate connection when someone is close and more distant when they move away."
E.R.C. Catalogue Team [Alexander Beranek, William Qian, Evina Karliafti, Erica Galiti, Kalliopi Makrygiwrgou]
"The project's inspiration came from the idea that people should not rely on architecture to change the environment but use architecture to motivate human beings to become aware of their surroundings. The team's design collects human physical interaction and translates the data into a numerical value which is associated with a specific type of emotion. The machine then transforms itself into predetermined shapes that represent that emotion. This method of data collection allowed the surface to collect pools of data that the system could cycle through which would in turn be a direct reflection of the student body. The surface’s location in a school environment allows it to act as a reflection of the student body so when many students are stressed or upset the surface responds and communicates that back to the students. It is then up to the students to address and fix the problems that is causing problems."
Design Proposal by Timekeeping Appendages Team [Kerry Hohenstein, Steven Ren, Evi Saflayioura, Spiros Koulias, George Kokkoris]
"After analyzing the movement of various organisms, a general trend discovered of open and closed stature in response to its organism’s comfort levels. This led to the creation of a module that could exhibit flexure between these two states through angular compression. Due to the site’s limited accessibility, the structure would primarily respond to environmental stimuli. However, the site’s integration into the façade allows the structure to be visually connected to its surroundings. The system was designed to be influenced by fluctuations of light throughout the day, so that the structure would behave as a timekeeping device. The individual appendages consist of a strip of material with control points on either side that are connected with a string. As the string is pulled, the strip is gradually collapsed into a spiral. The direction of movement depends on the side that compression is applied to and the curvature depends on the spacing of joints. In terms of the overall movement pattern, the goal was to create a dynamic wave that would progress through the structure. Using a series of camshaft gears, delay and rotation reversal was introduced in the motion of the axis."
P.A.S.I.D. Team [Sokratis Baltas, Dimitra Spanou, Ioanna Beka, Anni Müüripeal]
"By looking into the aerodynamic quality of the wings in various animals the “Leonardo Da Vinci Wings” project aimed at the analogy of a flying animal’s flap shape that affects its lift to the configuration of a symmetrical ‘winged’ model in order to affect the crowd around it. A set of triangular elements are positioned sequentially along the length of the canopy fixed by the tips of their form. A second set of gears is connected to the triangles via linear parts that set the wings in motion as soon as a person comes close to the prototype. By setting the connection points of the triangular ‘wings’ to the gears’ varying profile, the sine wave movements generated by the prototype resemble that of flighted species. While the form is based on this biomimetic system, its stir aims to affect the humans’ perceptual sense of their surroundings activating tranquillity by having a simple harmonic motion."
Program Director: Alexandros Kallegias
Visiting School Director: Dr. Christopher Pierce
Host School Coordinators: Evangelos Kanellopoulos
Tutors: Alexandros Kallegias, Dr. Elif Erdine, Dağhan Çam, Anna Laskari, Tassos Kanellos, Zeynep Aksoz, Elina Pattichi
AKTO Teaching Assistants: Konstantinos Tsivilis, Konstantinos Panagiotopoulos
All images courtesy of AA Athens Visiting School.
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