New technologies and materials to inspire designers are unveiled.
By Marie O’Mahony
SmartGeometry 2012, an annual four-day workshop, talkshop and symposium, took place on March 19–24 in Troy, N.Y. This year’s theme was Material Intensities–Simulation, Energy, Environment, giving participants the opportunity to explore the relationship between the digital and the material. The international event, held in a different city each year, draws together a range of academics and professionals largely from architecture and engineering. The Troy event was hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and took place in the Grimshaw-designed state-of-the-art Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). (See the case study about EMPAC in this continuing education article).
The event took place in three stages: a series of 11 workshops (including one for children), followed by a talkshop and symposium. The format was intense, starting before the actual event through online dialogue between participants. The resulting standard was extremely high; proposals were ambitious and output over the four-day workshop was impressive. Notable this year were two underlying themes: smart and responsive materials and a bringing together of high technology and craft skills.
Some workshop clusters brought impressive technologies with which to play. The Ceramics 2.0 group used a robot arm, and Beyond Mechanics’ Nick Puckett drove the technology needed for making the group’s shape memory polymers (SMP) all the way from Kentucky. In the spirit of interdisciplinarity, Beyond Mechanics set about exploring how architects could contribute in the development of responsive polymers. The team looked at the idea of clothing as cladding with SMPs utilized to allow for adaptive climate control. Puckett’s ultimate aim is to see the polymer manufacturing technology evolve in the same way as selective laser sintering (SLS), and become available to users as another form of desktop manufacturing.
A range of speakers presented their ideas and latest developments at the talkshops and symposium. Spanish architect Enric Ruiz-Geli gave an inspiring keynote address, sharing the ideas and processes behind Media-Tic and discussing his current work with the El Bulli Foundation (see FA Sept/Oct 2012 for interview). Jan Knippers, of Knippers Helbig, shared current biomimetic-driven smart composites. In one example, an adaptive shade façade opened and closed in a system inspired by the opening and closing of a bird of paradise’s petals. Biological structures were also the topic of architect/artist Zbigniew Oksiuta’s (RPI) presentation during Talkshop. He presented his vision of the future of dwellings as a biological habitat using biopolymers. While there are a number of people researching biopolymers, the scale that Oksiuta achieves allows the viewer to imagine a future fabric architecture that is fully derived from and powered by nature.
SmartGeometry 2013 dates and location have yet to be finalized but will be issued soon on the website.