The cyber-Garden project envisions and tests design as a form of cultivation; the designer operates as a cyber-gardener in both choreographing and breeding new artificial ecologies composed by robotic, biological, social and urban systems.
As the landscape designer and philosopher Gilles Clement points out, in his beautiful description of the “moving garden”, the gardener operates through a process of intensification of diff erence; his only chance to reconcile his desire of beautifi cation and the natural expressivity of living processes, resides in the ‘movement’, intended here in its biological and physical sense; the formalization of the garden becomes for Clement a process of formalized transmission of biological messages or, in our terms, of algorithmic coding.
The cyber-Garden project embodies a cybernetic and machinic paradigm within the framework of a large 1:200 scale architectural model. Such attempt to combine languages and methods has a strong contemporary relevance. The ecologic and sustainable design ethos has become central to any architectural discourse but it’s still seeking more radical solutions to an accepted list of problematic questions. On the other hand the architectural avant-garde seams confused as to whether technology or critical thinking should be the driving force of research and is looking for models able to combine these sensibilities. Such models have existed throughout history and in recent years have found prominence in the work of Cedric Price and his cyberneticist friend Gordon Pask. Pioneers in the fi elds of architecture, cybernetics and machine design, Price and Pask looked at architecture as an ever-changing living system with its own mechanisms of thinking and interacting with the environment, the users and time.
For them, architecture is a political and social statement instantiated through the use of technology and computation.
The project tests a design method centered on interbreeding architectural design with social sciences, ecology and cybernetics: the designer here facilitates communication between diverse and heterogeneous systems and ecologic regimes. Flows of light and nutrients, human care and physical contact or ecological stress analysis are allowed to contribute to the growth and evolution of an augmented architectural model, a 1:200 representation of a cyber-garden city. The project, initiated more than a year ago, evolved into the design of both the digital and the physical interface of a model, where sensors, able to capture and channel information in real time, are embedded and robotic gardening structures feed their own biologic skin. Emergent digital patterns, which define the garden photosynthetic plan, have infl uence on the behavioral differentiation and positioning of the robots. The robotic structures then cultivate the biologic skin in a way that evolves in time, leading to an ecologic sedimentation process. In this respect the cyber-Garden is an artificial ecology, which share with the biological counterparts its fundamental living principle, the feedback loop; however its augmented nature allows for an extended participation and interaction turning the model into a tool of systemic design. Within the cyber-Garden digital and physical worlds are interrelated realms and the work of the architect operates across them both; digital design technologies are pushed to the point of merging back with the world they re-describe allowing architecture to organize material as well as information in real-time.
The current iteration of the model exists as a multilayered, intelligent architectural system that passes information between layers both via material behaviours, then through electronic and biological sensors.
The model is interconnecting: -a network of 24 radiation sensors -three custom designed/programmed robotic structures -a parametric digital model -a set of woven fibers -two bacteria colonies.
The bacteria colonies are hosted by approximately 600 petri dishes which function as tiles for the 1:200 architectural model. The more the bacteria grow the more light is shaded on the ground; sensors record the process of shading and feedback the informations to both the parametric model and the robotic structure. As a consequence the cyber-canopy cultivate itself, providing light and nutrients where needed to foster further growth. This in turn will affects the digital plan and triggers the emergence of other gardening components to be designed, cut and added on. The physical prototype and digital model engage in a generative dialogue and co-evolve over the course of each exhibition.
The project was developed as part of the smartGeometry 2011 in Copenhagen.
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