Krets projects PARCEL and SplineGraft are featured in Networks and Environments, a monograph on Servo published by DAMIDI Architecture Publishing CO, Korea.
The SplineGraft project sets up a reactive environment in which sound dampening panels are continuously reshaped by a network of actuating devices, triggered by user movement. The panels are grafted into an existing environment, supported by structural racks allowing a range of different configurations. SplineGraft can be set in different overall shapes independent of its behavior. The different parts are grafted onto each other; the profiled polyurethane panels are articulated by the configuration of the structural racks. The texture of this primary form is reshaped in real time by the control system integrated in the structural racks; a continuous form finding process with emergent patterning effects. In return, the spline ridges of the panels disperse these transformations horizontally.
The supporting structural racks are assembled from cnc-milled clear acrylic units, each integrating the actuating mechanisms, milled tracks for cabling and etched nickel brass conduits for inter-unit connectivity. The angle between each structural component can be set in five different positions, allowing the rack to be set at a convex or concave configuration, while maintaining conductive links between each part. Each rack of five units is controlled by a micro controller, steering the integrated actuators in the form of dual shape memory alloy wires. The central intelligence of each rack communicates with neighboring racks through radio.
The behaviour of the SplineGraft is controlled by a genetic algorithm; a computer program that simulates and compresses the geologically slow processes of natural selection to nanoseconds of computational time, in order to evolve solutions to specific problems. The Spline Graft algorithm is in this way trying to emit patterns of movement which stimulate occupation of the space it has been grafted in to. The matching of sensor readings and motor reactions in an apparently intentional way by the Spline Graft, transforms architecture into a cybernetic agent involved in the making and production of space.
CNC-milled acrylic structural components with integrated wiring, machined polyurethane foam, etched nickel brass conductors, IR Movement Sensor, custom made PCB Cards, AVR Atmega8 Microcontrollers, Radio Modules, diverse electronic components, Flexinol® shape memory alloy actuators with protective Teflon tubes.
SplineGraft was developed by Krets partners Pablo Miranda and Jonas Runberger.
Electronic hardware developed in collaboration with Åsmund Gamlesæter.
Supporting development Team: Nick Flygt, Emma Sander, Sanna Söderhäll and Sandra Westin.
The SplineGraft project development was supported by AKAD, Vitra Design Stiftung and the Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation.
With PARCEL Krets suggests new ways of establishing relations between the material, audiovisual and digital techniques that are increasingly forming the environments around us. The project considers off-the-shelf technologies normally used in the packaging industry and consumer electronics as integral parts of an architectural design.
Punched plastic sheets equipped with computational intelligence through microprocessors, printed circuits, and a variation of sensors, lighting and speakers, are folded into volumes. When combined they form a wall-paneling system integrating information technology and infrastructure as well as illumination and sound. The folded sheets create depth from surface and respond to the color scheme of the Stockholm Concert Hall. The rendering of the color shifts as a result of the inherent curvature in the pieces and the integrated light.
The PARCEL project emanated from an interest in a number of specific phenomena and readily available technologies:
1. The material cultures and fabrication principles of disposable articles and printed matter. The short-lived “throwaway” is easily produced and distributed and thus interesting in relation to a growing need for rethinking the use of plastics in architecture. Initial studies examined tectonics, modularity, detailing, recombination and assembly, looking at ways to deploy these at an architectural scale.
2. Cheaply produced electronics are increasingly infusing our environment with cellular intelligence. Computing power is becoming ubiquitous and readily available to such an extent that it takes on disposable qualities. Previously large and exclusive electronic devices are rapidly collapsing into cheap devices of the size of a pinhead. Electronic circuits can nowadays be printed onto almost any surface, making it possible to integrate microprocessors in products and environments ranging from household appliances to surveillance systems and clothing tags. They make up an invisible but nonetheless present and active part of our public and domestic spaces.
3. Equally important, but less apparent, is the software driving these integrated devices. Their code plays a potentially important role in scripting the interaction between individual and environment, as well as social interaction between individuals. Coding is becoming an act of design, where the scripting of behaviors is increasingly linked to the ambience of our environments.
Design and material development within these three fields was done in parallel, covering four areas of investigations.
- Material and production looked at key aspects of the disposable product including production and assembly, as well as a range of conductive materials including tape, glue and paint.
- Within design and method the folded structure, as well as modularity, patterning and detailing, was developed.
- Program and performance included algorithm development, user recombination and network communication protocols.
- The presentation area includes internal testing of systems, as well as continuous documentation and presentation of the conglomeration of the different tracks.
The cellular principles of the programmed intelligence suggested a similar approach to the physical components. A system of partially folded units with specific curvatures and sets of folds was developed. The inherent curvatures provided structural stability as well as visual effect. The units retained qualities of the sheet, while achieving volumetric capacity. The name PARCEL originates from the way that the singular units are partially enclosed to be able to house electronics but not hiding them from view. Another connotation of parcel would be the act of distributing parts, to “parcel out.” The assembly principles of PARCEL explored the potential for a striated and non-uniform expression, in the way that the different parts could be recombined. The structural logics provided for a vertical positioning, suggesting the idea of a wall paneling system.
The production patterns developed were used as master for the punch tool, setting cuts and fold lines, original for printed circuits and instruction for electronic components. In essence, the complete information for the production of one PARCEL unit was integrated in a single drawing. In this way the formal logics of the PARCEL prototypes were imported from printed matter and disposable articles, transferring their qualities to an interior scale.
The local digital conduits within the single PARCEL unit form a network with all other units when assembled into an installation, with physical connectors also closing the electric links. The physical and electronic architectures were both a cellular and parallel model, as opposed to traditional sequential computer processes.
The immaterial reactive characteristics of PARCEL are based on white noise, often used to control sound conditions in an environment. Surrounding sound is picked up locally through microphones to be dispersed to other units of the installation through the integrated network. During this transfer the sound signal is transformed by other inputs and emitted through loud speakers and LED lighting, establishing local environments. The interchangeable units of PARCEL, each with specific formal and operational characteristics allows dynamic recombination by users/visitors while the installation is in operation. The striated pattern of the complete installation can be reconfigured at will and the emergent behavior of the distributed intelligence in the local environments changes.
The transfer of strategies from other fields to an interior architectural scale introduces an oscillating ambiguity between graphic and spatial infrastructures. The multifunctional quality of the graphic pattern as instruction for production suggests an ornamental transition from graphic to electronic to spatial infrastructure. PARCEL blurs the relationship between model and building – in this case the wall, and prototype and product – in this case the wall paneling system, in its capacity to continuously react and interact electronically with its environment, as well as invite the visitor to recombine and transfigure the system.
Today’s individual and collective spaces are saturated with information networks and control mechanisms, ranging from automatic doors, to information displays and surveillance systems. The social protocols of such densely electronic material are very much dependent on the presence they have in a space. By appropriating these systems into the architectural design process, they become part of the overall design agenda, and can be articulated accordingly. An extension may lead to new models for social exchange in space, which can be compared to the spread of Internet communities over the past decade.
With PARCEL, Krets addresses the component level of architectural production, and the fact that the rational building industry of today is based on components with very specific geometry. There is a tendency for closed systems to be developed by individual actors based mainly on economic conditions and not integrating architectural quality. This limits the choices of innovative architectural design and shapes our environment in a profound way.
The Servo Urbantoys project diffuses the conventional roles of manufacturer, architect, designer and site visitor. The site is designed as an interface that provides tools for the design of architectural products, Urbantoys, via a series of manipulations of a digital model.
Urbantoys is a set of digitally instantiated products and instructions for their fabrication embedded in an interface intended for both viewing and extraction. Implicit in the word urban-toy is a fluctuation between an architectural scale and program and the scale of a toy or hand held object. It also connotes a digitally manipulable set of geometries, which are animated by the toy’s user and can be assembled computationally as a three-dimensional model or produced as a physical instantiation. The toy’s components are set in motion as a series of spatial parcels, which are activated by the user. The assembly of digital pieces is non-sequential proliferating into a series of models. The viewer is invited to act on a supplied catalogue of materials and infiltrate the design process. By submitting designs to and sampling designs from an online archive, the visitors’ designs are made available to other potential authors. Digitally catalogued urbantoys may be retrieved, fabricated and exhibited at a later event, turning the exhibition venue into a dynamic index of the design process as it is distributed among various agents. The interface also provides the possibility for the visitor to directly engage with a manufacturer by ordering a rapid prototype of the designed object.
Urbantoys v.2 was exhibited at the ReShape! exhibition curated by IASPIS at the Venice Biennale of the Arts in 2003. It is an upgraded version of the online design environment Urbantoys v.1 released in 2000 for the exhibition N2art curated by Peter Hagdahl. Part of a larger speculation on the incorporation of the user into design and production processes through the emergence of new interactive technologies, Urbantoys v.2 is an open-source interface through which outside authors customize a variety of generic design prototypes according to personal needs, interests, and constraints.
The temporary gallery space of the Reshape! show required a spatial setup for the digital design environment. A merged display wall, work place and light table operated as a platform for interaction, both literally in the digital design system, as well as through discussions between visitors.
Physical models of previous designs were displayed, and other components provided the context for the less informative digital interface. The Urbantoys v.2 featured a back-lit table connected to a wall, carrying models, and enabling visitors / users to gather around to handle the models and view product sheets of previous designs, providing a context for the digital browser.
The design environment allowed the visitor to move around in digital space, while manipulating the geometries in an intuitive manner. Simple instructions guided the user, indicating different potential transformations. The interface was connected to a separate database, allowing for the storage and retrieval of designs, names of authors and comments. This made possible the sampling of previous designs, to be altered and re-saved.
The Urbantoys v.2 project used the Virtools game editor as a programming environment. The sampling of technology from other fields towards a new purpose requires the adaptation of techniques optimized for another agenda. This provides friction, but also opportunities.
During the Krets project development phase the software allowed for the sharing of behavioral scripts, enabling multiple developers to share the work on the prototype, which could also be continuously tested during the process. The Virtools-browser handled all interaction, providing behaviors to simple geometries resulting in a vast recombinatorial potential within the formative design concept.
The performative aspects of the project set up a new kind of relationship between designer, manufacturer and customer. The Urbantoys v.2 project explores the possibilities of using the gallery space as a platform for participatory design where the authorship of a set of environments is distributed and shared with the visitors. The visitor/ consumer of the piece is at the same time potentially a producer and author of designs that might be sampled by other visitors, as well as manufactured and exhibited at a later event. The audience involved in the consumption of the piece is at the same time the performers of a creative act. Krets, as authors and producers of the installation, will on the other hand act as consumers of the visitors saved designs when they are manufactured and exhibited.
Servo was invited by IASPIS to participate in the Reshape! sideshow to the 50th Venice Biennale. Krets was commissioned by Servo to develop the Urbantoys v.2 responsive browser, a re-development of the Urbantoys v.1 browser (2000).
Ulrika Karlsson, Servo
Urbantoys v.2 Krets design team:
Daniel Norell and Jonas Runberger
Oskar Scheiwiller More…
The ubiquity of electronically-conditioned cultures within the context of contemporary social transactions invigorates a dialogue between states of materiality and states of immateriality. This one-week workshop explicitly examined the transduction of informed states between a series of material and immaterial sites causing a reconsideration of these categories. These informed states were specific to the media in which they originate and was be defined by each team at the start of the workshop.
The workshop was part of INTIMATE DISTANCE: Liveness and Affect, a Visiting Fellows Program part of the SIAL Graduate Certificate Program. It was performed as an inserted catalyst in the mid of a seven week design course directed towards the design of an exhibition space. Student teams had prepared outlines that could be transformed and enriched during the workshop.
Info_liations / ex_foliations brief suggested a networked feedback environment that would emerge as a number of nested environments or nodes that maintained a micro scale of physical – digital connected spaces, affecting each other through more or less perceivable principles. A number of these nodes, comprised of a digital setting and a physical interface, would be connected and send and receive information trough transactions. These points of contact were established early on in the workshop and the different teams operated simultaneously in the various media continually activating these contact points throughout the duration of the workshop. Protocols for this exchange were established, using the Urbantoys v.2 as a reference, and the Virtools software package as a main platform.
Through this set-up, the student teams provided flexible designs in which behaviours or scripts could be exchanged during the development, and outside guests could manipul,ate the conditions of the design, thereby entering an open-ended dialogue on design qualities.
SIAL, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia August 2003
Tutors: Krets, through: Marcelyn Gow, Daniel Norell and Jonas Runberger