Responsive Environments: The Future of Shopping (Spring 2018)

Instructors: Allen Sayegh, Stefano Andreani

The course looks into the future of the built environment from a technologically augmented point of view, with a strong focus on what makes technologies stick and sustainable. By taking a holistic view and putting the human being at the center and forefront, from the immediate human scale and bodily sensors to the larger environment encompassing buildings and the urban scale, the course examines new and emerging models, technologies, and techniques for the design of innovative architectural human interfaces and responsive environments.

This year the topic of investigation will be on the question the shopping experience at the intersection of digital and physical environments. Addressing the recent and rapidly changing experience of shopping and evolving expectations and its repercussions on the retail industry and the built environments.

With a focus on the Italian City of Bergamo, the course aims to investigate the complex interplay of people’s behaviors and new modes of retail with the context of responsive technologies, opening up unexpected and new research and design opportunities as well as generating impulses and solutions for innovative spatial developments at different scales. In that sense, Bergamo – a typical mid-size European city – offers an ideal case study for prototypical interventions that can be possibly replicated in other contexts.

The first part of the course leading to the final project will consist of readings and discussions, background research, site analysis, and emerging technology investigation. Hands-on prototyping will be part of the course requirement and will feed into the larger speculative concepts. The course places an important emphasis on what makes the design of these responsive environments perceptually valid and technically feasible. In addition to the concept of retail and shopping, topics of in class discussions will include techniques of digital/physical perceptual correlations and relationship, body-centric interaction, and technological viability and longevity. The final project will be a speculative design intervention, supported by proposals and prototypes, envisaging potential future scenarios for retail and shopping experience.

Responsive Environments: The Future of Shopping

Responsive Environments: City eMotion (Spring 2017)

Prof. Allen Sayegh
Teaching and Research Associate Stefano Andreani

This course looks into the future of the built environment from a technologically augmented point of view, with a strong focus on sustainability and longevity of responsive spaces and artifacts. Putting the human being at the center and forefront, from the micro (bodily sensors, smart product design) to the macro (augmented buildings, information infrastructures, communication frameworks), this course will examine new models, technologies, and techniques for the design of innovative architectural spaces, systems, interfaces, and responsive environments.

The research pursued by the course will investigate the challenges related to the integration of digital technologies in cities, exploring both opportunities and repercussions on the spatial structure of the built environment as well as on the experience of citizens in both physical and virtual realms. Key research questions addressed by the course include: 1. What is the impact of digital technology on the experience of the built environment? 2. What are the transformations that the emerging spatial intelligence of cities will foster? 3. How can responsive environments facilitate the creation of new forms of relationships with the city? 4. How can the functioning mechanisms and dynamics of existing urban contexts promptly respond to the user needs and contextual occurrences?

With a focus on the City of Bergamo (Italy), the course ultimately aims to investigate the complex interplay of people’s behaviors and new technologies in responsive built environments, opening up unexpected research and design opportunities as well as generating impulses and solutions for innovative urban development at different scales. In that sense, Bergamo ‒ a typical mid-size European city ‒ offers an ideal case study for prototypical interventions that can be possibly replicated in other urban contexts.

Responsive Environments: Bergamo eMotion (Spring 2016)

Prof. Allen Sayegh
Teaching and Research Associate Stefano Andreani

This course looks into the future of the built environment from a technologically augmented point of view, with a strong focus on sustainability and longevity of responsive spaces and artifacts. Putting the human being at the center and forefront, from the micro (bodily sensors, smart product design) to the macro (augmented buildings, information infrastructures, communication frameworks), this course will examine new models, technologies, and techniques for the design of innovative architectural human interfaces and responsive environments.

This year the topic of investigation will be urban mobility, addressing the question of how the built environment and its infrastructures will integrate emerging technologies and trends for evolving mobility patterns and systems, and how users will adapt to ‒ and in some cases drive ‒ those changes. With a focus on the City of Bergamo (Italy), the course ultimately aims to investigate the complex interplay of people’s behaviors and new modes of transportation in responsive built environments, opening up unexpected research and design opportunities as well as generating impulses and solutions for innovative urban development at different scales. In that sense, Bergamo ‒ a typical mid-size European city ‒ offers an ideal case study for prototypical interventions that can be possibly replicated in other urban contexts.

 

Genome of the Built Environment: Measuring the Unseen (Spring 2016)

Prof. Allen Sayegh
Teaching and Research Associate Stefano Andreani

The built environment is one of the most fascinating yet enigmatic artifacts of the human being. We perceive it as a complex entity resulting from the juxtaposition of spaces, flows, experiences, objects, and events. Each environment has certain qualities, and ‒ even though shared characteristics do exist ‒ those qualities vary from place to place. Although a variety of criteria, parameters, and indicators attempt to capture key figures of places, they are yet far from depicting the more qualitative aspects that constitute the real experiential character of built environments. And far less is known of the role of new media and digital tools in understanding these qualities.

Articulating criteria of investigation and speculating on the role of design technology, this course introduces the “Genome of the Built Environment” as a new paradigm of how we might understand the built environment. How we might perceive it, and thus evolve it. Putting the human being at the center and forefront, the class will investigate the role of new augmenting and responsive technologies in articulating, mapping, and exploiting the specificities of places through a multi-sensory approach. This research course will attempt to answer some basic but fundamental questions by utilizing new sensing tools to measure unseen qualities. Questions such as: What makes built environments differ from one another? What creates consistencies between different places? What is the impact of certain elements of cities in our state of mind?

The ‘beat’ or the pace is one characteristic that has been established trying to uniquely characterize cities by identifying a distinct pace to each of them. But what are the other new qualities that are measurable that help us understand cities in new and perhaps previously unexplored ways? This course aims to measure and elaborate on quantitative descriptions of ‘hidden’ characteristics, attempting to build correlations between different unseen but detectable qualities of the built environment ‒ in addition to the  the ‘beat’ or the pace, the colors and tones, the mood of places, the agitation levels, the micro-climate, etc. Students will thus elaborate alternative methods, hack existing technologies, and device new tools to: a. measure and quantify qualities of the built environment;  b. visualize them and make comparisons; c. extrapolate meaning; d. create correlations between those qualities and typologies of built environments.

 

Cyborg Coasts: Responsive Hydrologies (Spring 2016)

Prof. Bradley Cantrell

The interface between the constructed environment and ecological systems is slowly blurring strategies in urbanism, biological engineering, and technological interface. These strategies encourage the application of responsive technologies to create new relationships through sensing and feedback, developing novel ecological systems. These new ecologies demand a deconstruction of industry, settlement, infrastructure, and biological systems framing the constructed landscape as a synthesizer of biotic and abiotic processes. The interstices of these new relationships become the medium in which this course will examine new potentials for sensing, monitoring, and automation as a starting point to reimagine coastal infrastructure. The role of responsive technologies focuses on the development of active methods for management of biological systems. This methodology spans a range of scales from micro adjustments of processes to regional management and monitoring. Primarily, responsive technologies create a new recursive or iterative relationship between computation and biology.

The course will focus on a primary method of inquiry, which will be to unpack the coastal landscape through the construction of what Levi Bryant calls, an onto-cartography. This refers to a cartographic mode that maps objects (machines) and the connections between these objects. The resultant framework will then be continually modified to test methods of sensing and feedback through mockups and prototypes. The course will engage prototyping, virtual models, and physical models as the primary modes of exploration. Course participants will be expected to explore a range of tools for the prototyping of responsive systems and environmental simulations that will be required to develop infrastructural proposals for sites in the lower Mississippi river. It is expected that all students have developed a repertoire of representation, prototyping, and modeling skills. The course expects students to engage media and technology to develop nascent approaches to site design, ecological management, and infrastructure. The course will introduce tools, concepts, and methodologies in robotics and sensing using tools such as arduino, grasshopper, and firefly.

 

Responsive Environments: Glitchy Food (Spring 2015)

Prof. Allen Sayegh
Teaching and Research Associate Stefano Andreani

Today, more than ever, we feel the technological presence as part of our everyday life. The all-pervasive nature of digital information and technological interaction affects all scales ‒ from our bodies to the larger urban contexts we occupy and the infrastructures that support them. This technological presence has a strong impact on our perception of the urban environment, and hence on the way in which we can embed technology in our design strategies. Current models tend towards performance- and efficiency-driven urban systems, architectural spaces, and human interactions. A-contextual and a-cultural implementations of new technologies almost standardize the evolution of our built environment, leaving no room for imperfections and anomalies. But how can the spaces, infrastructures, and places that define the social experience of tangible environments not incorporate elements of inherent spontaneity, creativity, and even error?

This course looks at the concept of ‘glitches’ as a research strategy to embed serendipity and potential for creativity in the design of the built environment using responsive technologies. A glitch is defined as a temporary, transient fault in a system that corrects itself. Glitches are cracks, frictions that create ‘openings’ in a particular system, revealing new meanings of the system itself. By looking at the opportunities that can be found in errors that happen in an unpredictable way. This class will explore design strategies that create the conditions for serendipity to emerge ‒ sparking creativity and eventually fostering innovation. Based on on-going research at the Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab the class will begin by looking at food networks in the city of Bergamo in the Lombardy region as a starting point to map and understand the city, and identify potential ‘glitches’ in the system for responsive interventions.

 

Genome of the Built Environment: Measuring the Unseen (Spring 2015)

Prof. Allen Sayegh
Teaching and Research Associate Stefano Andreani

The built environment is one of the most fascinating yet enigmatic artifact of the human being. We perceive it as a complex entity resulting from the juxtaposition of spaces, flows, experiences, objects, and events. Each environment has certain qualities, and ‒ even though shared characteristics do exist ‒ those qualities vary from place to place. Although a variety of criteria, parameters, and indicators attempt to capture key figures of places, they are yet far from depicting the more qualitative aspects that constitute the real experiential character of built environments. And far less is known of the role of new media and digital tools in understanding these qualities.

Articulating criteria of investigation and speculating on the role of design technology, this course will introduce the “Genome of the Built Environment” as a new paradigm of how we might understand the built environment. How we might perceive it, and thus evolve it. Putting the human being at the center and forefront, the class will investigate the role of new technologies in articulating, mapping, and exploiting the specificities of places through a multi-sensory approach. This research course will attempt to answer some basic but fundamental questions by utilizing new sensing tools to measure unseen qualities. Questions such as: What makes built environments differ from one another? What makes them similar? What creates consistencies between different places?

The ‘beat’ or the pace is one characteristic that has been established trying to uniquely characterize cities by identifying a distinct pace to each of them. But what are the other new qualities that are measurable that help us understand cities in new and perhaps previously unexplored ways? This course aims to measure and elaborate on quantitative descriptions of ‘hidden’ characteristics, attempting to build correlations between different unseen but detectable qualities of the built environment ‒ in addition to the  the ‘beat’ or the pace, the smell levels, the mood of the place, the agitation levels, the micro-climate, etc. Students will thus elaborate alternative methods, hack existing technologies, and device new tools to: a. measure and quantify qualities of the built environment;  b. visualize them and make comparisons; c. extrapolate meaning; d. create correlations between those qualities and typologies of built environments.

 

Cyborg Coasts: Responsive Hydrologies (Spring 2015)

Prof. Bradley Cantrell

 

Responsive Environments (Spring 2014)

Prof. Allen Sayegh
Teaching and Research Associate Stefano Andreani

The REAL Lab Seminar looked at the relationship between technology, perception and the built environment. Smart, media driven products and environments are becoming extension of our sense of self. In addition, the advances in current embedded sensing and actuating technologies combined with media are creating unprecedented opportunities to blur the boundaries between the digital and the physical environment. Responsive Environments takes the notion of thinking about the digital and the physical world as an indivisible whole.
The course placed an important emphasis on what makes the design of these responsive environments perceptually valid. The readings and the case studies focused on defining, understanding and generating discussions around the different cognitive models to evaluate and create digitally-driven experiences in the built environment.
The seminar focused on a few topics including digital longevity and technological sustainability, techniques of digital/physical inversion, body-centric interaction, the perceptual logic of cause and effect, the natural and the synthetic, and augmentation. The course also covered the technical skills required to design and prototype digitally driven experiences in the built environment through series of workshops in relevant software/hardware.
Collaborating with the South China University of Technology (SCUT) in Guangzhou (China), the course tackled a real design challenge in the city of Guangzhou, proposing speculative design interventions for the Haixinsha Island. A field trip to Guangzhou allowed to critically assess the dynamics of the city, as well as interacting with local representatives and SCUT students through design workshops.
The final projects resulted in theoretical papers, architectural designs, computationally-enhanced animations and projections, and full scale, digitally-augmented prototypes and installations. Those projects will be exhibited in the fall of 2014 in Guangzhou.

 

Smart[er] Cities (Spring 2014)

Nashid Nabian
Teaching and Research Associate Stefano Andreani

In its current state, the vision of a Smart City is very much fostered by a technologically enhanced worldview of the urban condition, whereas traditional and modern communication infrastructure, mainly the transport and ICT infrastructures, fuel sustainable urban growth and the quality of urban life. Smart cities are envisioned as wired and ICT-driven cities, saturated with embedded sensors, actuators, digital screens, hand-held devices and smart phones and all sorts of embedded and situated computing devices, with connectivity as the source of their growth and the driver of their effective performance, where all social classes benefit from the technological integrations of their urban fabric.
With the objective of developing alternative models of urbanization framed within the context of technologically-enhanced cities, the course will address the emerging areas of Smart[er] Knowledge and Smart[er] Health, exploring the new opportunities offered by innovative technologies for the redefinition of knowledge creation and distribution for ecosystems of innovation, and for the enhancement of health solutions and wellbeing behaviors for healthier practices. The course will investigate – both theoretically and practically – how new models of networks, enhanced immersive and interactive spaces, and novel computational technologies can contribute to tackle pressing questions of learning and healthcare through the lens of the design of smart architectures, infrastructures and ultimately artifacts, as well as technologically retrofitting or repurposing our built environments.
Following rigorous research frameworks, the course is organized around four dimensions: (1) a literature review of Smart Cities, (2) an analytical case study of proposed or practiced smart city solutions, (3) a rigorous investigation of urban problems that can be addressed by smart city inspired solutions, and finally, (4) a handson approach towards envisioning, proposing, designing, developing, and prototypically implementing ITC-driven, networked and integrated solutions to the areas of Smart[er] Knowledge and Smart[er] Health.

 

Responsive Environments (Spring  2013)

Prof. Allen Sayegh

Digitally driven interactive experiences have become an extension of our bodies that extend into our environment. The design of these experiences is often derived by technological advancements of embedded technologies. In recent years architects have had a growing interest in integrating dynamic experiences in architectural and urban spaces. Usually the trend has been to borrow from on-screen interactive media and apply it to the built environment. The results are usually an exercise in scale at best. Responsive Environments explores the potentials of body-centric interactive spaces as a building block of spatial experience. The course explores ideas of interactive experiences with an emphasis on digital/analog inversions. The seminar goes through a series of case studies in film, music and architecture that create a successful digital analog inversion to understand the elements and the fundamentals of creating digitally driven responsive environments. The course also takes a hands-on and in-depth look at different enabling technologies. The outcomes of the course are prototypes and full-scale interactive installations.

 

Responsive Environments: Disappearance (Spring 2012)

Prof. Allen Sayegh
Nashid Nabian

This course focuses on creating digitally driven interactive experiences in our built environment derived from technological advances in embedded technologies, smart materials, and body-centric interactive media, with a strong emphasis on digital/analog inversions. This semester the theme to be explored is DISAPPEARANCE, which covers the conception, design, development, representation, and prototypical implementation of digitally driven responsive environments, and artifacts that disappear, fade, disintegrate, vanish over time, either from existence or from our faculties of sensory perception. DISAPPEARANCE examines time as a generative component of spatial design. Throughout history, mankind has shown an obsessive concern with the fixity of its constructed environments. This has logically resulted in a definition of architecture as the practice of designing spaces enclosed by massive, durable structures, and the only way to configure places that can accommodate the habitual needs of the individual on one hand (domestic spaces), and the societal needs of the multitude on the other (publicly shared spaces and cities). The question is, what if we could transcend the belief in time’s degenerative effects to think of it as generative, as the cradle of an ongoing process of creation and re-creation, configuration and re-configuration? Then those engaged in spatial practices of any sort could shift their attention from durability, or designing against time, to fluidity, or designing for temporality. Under these circumstances environments, architecture, and artifacts are not entities that need to resist the tyranny of time, but spatial settings that accommodate a dynamic flow of temporalities, events, ideas, and ongoing productive processes. The architecture of disappearance is actually the architecture of generative temporalities, quite conveniently accommodating the ephemeral within the concept of space as non-substantial, non-durable, or not-inert. The course is organized into three parts: (1) a literature review of time as a generative factor of architectural or artifactual forms and spatial experiences, as well as disappearance as an inspiration for creating spatial experiences, (2) a rigorous cataloging of theoretical or practiced techniques and technologies of disappearance in art and architecture achieved by critically analyzing projects that utilize each technique, and (3) a hands-on approach to envisioning, proposing, designing, developing, and implementing prototypes of disappearing architectures and artifacts. To create these prototypical models, students are offered the basic technical knowledge necessary for programming virtual platforms, as well as platforms that allow for physical computing and electronic prototyping. These skills will be acquired in a series of integrated technical workshops focused on the use of open-source programming and prototyping platforms, such as Processing and Arduino.