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Last week London’s Architectural Association School was host to a mind-boggling assembly of some of the world’s pre-eminent technologists, “who all just happened to be in the same place at the same time,” said co-founder Liam Young. It was the living sculptures of experimental architect Philip Beesley which captured our imagination.
Created by Liam Young of Tomorrow's Thoughts Today and Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG with the Architectural Association, the third in this space-age series of events chronicled visions of the future from illustrious speakers from the fields of science, art and technology. From the director of Cube and Splice Vincenzo Natali, Oscar winner for visual effects on Inception, Andy Lockley, concept artist on Animatrix, Dark City and Fifth Element, Christian Scheurer to the Natural Robotics Lab at Sheffield University.
It was Philip Beesley, Canadian digital media artist and experimental architect, who really captured our attention. His mechanical installations are majestic living sculptures composed of spiky frond-like appendices which breath like gills and reach towards movement.
One of Beesley's greatest attempts to create an ideal public architecture, Hylozoic Ground, debuted at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, where, in collaboration with senior TED Fellow Rachel Armstrong, they built an artificial forest from glass-like lattice, clothed with filters, housing hundreds of incubators and an "insect-like inteligence".
Mesh-like columns and hyperbolic canopies are rendered human and viscose through hundreds of bladders filled with fluid and dozens of breathing leaf-like structures. Proximity detectors and arduino processors are organised in a deep system that responded with ripples to the presence of humans. This magical construct even listens through acoustic resonators, and has a resilient structure that can bend and stretch - like a tetrahedron packing system.
"Air muscles and swallowing elements" are chained together in a communication feed passing on signals, resulting in a parasoltic wave. It's extremities "arch uncannily towards those who venture into its midst, reaching out to stroke and be stroked like some mysterious animal", said the Fundacion Telefonica Jury, who awarded it 1st prize. Each bladder of liquid is fitted with LED lights which stimulate chemical exchanges, generating a metabolism. The ordered geometry of the hyperbolic structure sees pieces repeated and bunched, "much like bad crocheting" Said Beesley "nature understands this best when it makes lettuce or cauliflower".
Where once the ideal of the perfect architecture was the sphere, a futurist vision seen constantly from the 1950s with Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic Dome, to the Arizona Biopshere 2 of the 1980's. But, Beesley says there is "nothing less interactive" than the spherical shape, and instead proposes the opposite, a structure which sheds energy and fosters interchange with the environment, in a mutual relationship.
Beesley and Armstrong's creations, while seething with millions of intricate, complicated mechanical and chemical structures, also form a visually breathtaking living ecosystem, suggesting how future buildings might repair themselves in a carbon-negative way, and perhaps the archtiecture of the future?
If you're in Salt Lake City you can catch Hylozoic Ground At The Leonardo