Light Harvest: Interactive Sculptural Installation based on Folding and Mapping Proteins

Citation:

Wu, J., Ressl, S. & Overton, K (2018). Light Harvest: Interactive Sculptural Installation based on Folding and Mapping Proteins, Digital Creativity, doi: 10.1080/14626268.2018.1533871.

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https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/5xc8WA6BW7y7mvyXZUkI/full

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Light Harvest is an interactive sculptural installation that explores a protein called Light-Harvesting Complex II (LHCII) in the realm of materials, digital fabrication, projection mapping and interaction design. This article gives an account of the making of Light Harvest, a collaboration between an artist/designer, a structural biologist, and an interaction design technologist. The artistic concepts in material construction and digital techniques are drawn from protein folding, sophisticated mapping processes in protein X-ray crystallography, and the remarkable abilities of LHCI proteins to convert full-spectrum visible sunlight to useful energy for life. Through its interactive installation, Light Harvest engages us in an appreciation and understanding of the biological processes studied and the scientific techniques used to study them.

Ruga Lumina: Folding Interior Skin with Dynamic Light

Citation:

Wu, J. (2018). Ruga Lumina: Folding Interior Skin with Dynamic Light, Journal of Interior Design, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp. TBD. doi: 10.1111/joid.12123

Link to full paper in PDF

Abstract:

Ruga Lumina investigates body–space relationships by leveraging digital fabrication and interactive technologies. Ruga Lumina is a spatial construct in the form of a smart luminous “skin” made of thin sheets of folded material that respond to the movement of live bodies within and surrounding its interior space. Spatial occupancy is registered through the use of smart technology; sensor information activates illumination and lighting effects, which, in turn, prompts perceptual and expressive aesthetic qualities as affects. This visual essay gives an account of the construction of Ruga Lumina at two exhibition sites: Detroit Center for Design and Technology (DCDT) in Detroit, Michigan, and 3Labs in Culver City, California. This account describes how bodies can be read and registered upon a spatial surface that points to a potential to re‐envision fundamental notions of surface interiority.

Kaleidoscope 5 at Culver City, California

Ruga Lumina at 3labs, Culver City, California

I was invited to participate at Kaleidoscope 5 in 3Labs in Culver City, California, in May of 2017. The exhibition featured seven engaging installations from nine artists:  Alex Beim, Ben Jones, Kate Parsons and Ben Vance, Ara Peterson and Jim Drain, James Turrell, Akiko Yamashita, and myself. I installed the Ruga Lumina and the Anemoi Light Art.

About seven hundred or more guests attended the Kaleidoscope 5. According to the event organizer, the groups of artists’ “transcendent efforts harness the complex properties of light, skillfully manipulate real and virtual space, and utilize experimental forms of materiality to produce intriguing atmospheres that provoke unique physical and emotional responses.”

Artist Akiko Yamashita posts in front of Into the Light and Folded Light Art (Stefanie Keenan / Getty Images for Harper Sloane Productions)
Honorees Alexandra and Sean Parker post in front of Ruga Lumina and Folded Light Art. (Stefanie Keenan / Getty Images for Harper Sloane Productions)

Engaging body-space relationship: making of an interactive interior skin

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A prototype of To Feel the Space. Photo courtesy of Kyle Overton

Citation: Wu, J. (2016). Engaging body-spacer relationship: Making of an interactive interior skin, IDEC Exchange: A Forum for Interior Design Education, Fall 2016

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There is an increasing interest in interior design theory that focuses on understanding interior spaces as both the specifics of objects and environments within the interior and the subjects who experience them through their bodily presence. If a theory of interiority cannot simply be characterized by reference to qualities such as walls, ceilings and floors in a Cartesian space and by the objects and finishing contained in it, and we wish to engage physical and psychological body-space relationships as well, then what are some new spatial expressions that can affect our perception of space? What is our perception of a space? What does it mean to feel a space? According to Gestalt psychology, when we enter an interior space, what is first and immediately perceived is neither the subjective sensation nor shapes, colors, or objects, but rather, atmosphere. German philosopher, Gernot Böhme, in his seminal work, Atmosphere as The Fundamental Concept of a New Aesthetics, articulated the interrelationship between the subjects and objects in atmospheric space. According to Böhme, atmospheres are neither something object nor something subject. Instead, atmospheres are both object-like, articulating their presence through qualities, and at the same time subject-like, presenting a bodily state of being of subjects in space.

Human skin is the interface between the body and world: it is our outermost organ that protects our physical bodies, it is sensuous to touch and constantly gives us information about our surroundings. In design history the concept of ‘skin’ has been used as a site for rich metaphors referring to the clothing that wraps around the body or the building walls that enclose and protect our body. In fact, ‘second skin’ is often used as a metaphor for clothing or fashion while ‘third skin’ is often used as a metaphor for architectural cladding and surface interiority. An architectural skin, referred to generically as the boundary between indoor and outdoor, has to negotiate with both exterior and interior presences. In contrast, interior skin, mediated by the architectural skin, can be understood as a series of layers demarcating various interior enclosures: inside and outside demarcation is erased and dichotomy becomes relevant only to the presence of the body.

Directly borrowing from the metaphor of human skin, this art installation To Feel the Space, is a full scale interactive interior skin that is produced by using folded plastic corrugation boards and digital technologies. It attempts to explore the potential object-like and subject-like expression of interior atmosphere by focusing on the ephemeral status between subject and object and capturing the fleeting moments of body-space experience. Situated within a large public space, for example, an exhibition hall, the form of the interior skin, digitally fabricated from folded plates is not the result of the design generated from a specific program, but the result of parameterizing the dome-like structure to the bodily dimensions and movement. The interior skin, as the object in space, actively engages with the subjects as they walk into the exhibition space. Digital cameras capture the colors palettes from the clothing people wear in space and add the live color information to a database to be live project-mapped onto the interior skin. As the people move closer to and within the interior skin, the additional digital cameras will capture people’s movements in space and allow for the interactive plays between the bodies and the space. When people move outside of the interior skin and the exhibition hall, they will leave their color information behind in the space and therefore the space is present with the traces of bodies even if the bodies are absent in space. As a result, the atmosphere is neither objective nor subjective, but infused with the fleeting interplay between the object and the subject that is felt through the body and met with the eyes.

Acknowledgement: This project is supported by New Frontier of Creativity and Scholarship and Center of Arts and Humanities Institute Fellowship, Indiana University. The author would like to thank Kyle Overton for working on aspects of the interactive technology.

Upcoming Exhibition: Light Harvest

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A photograph of one of the three chains of Light Harvesting Complex. Photo courtesy of Kyle Overton

Light Harvest will be part of a group exhibit, (Re)imagining Science at Grunwald Gallery at Indiana University. It is also part of Themester 2016 exhibitions that are centered on the theme of Beauty. The show opens on Oct 14th, 2016.

This project is inspired by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s work on form and growth and the structural biology. In 1917, Thompson first published his magnum opus “On Growth and Form,” with a second edition appeared in 1942. Thompson studied the system of forms and structures found in all species of nature. He was the first bio-mathematician who used mathematical and geometric analysis to study the myriad living forms as a product of dynamics at work at cellular and tissue level within all organisms. For Thompson, the beautiful world we live in can be understood as an ethereal palpitation of waves of energy making up all things. Thompson’s book has inspired generations of artists and designs in search of beauty found in natural structures that reach into vastness and smallness beyond our human sensory range.

Proteins are essential to all forms of life on earth. Without proteins, there would be no life as we know it. Proteins are small molecular machines with unique folding structures. Their various functions rely on their proper structural architecture; this is called the structure-functional relationship. Protein structures cannot be seen with the naked eye. Therefore structural biologists use X-ray Crystallography to determine the structure of proteins, which can be visualized in 3D. This allows not just analyzing the folding structure to understand a protein’s function; it also reveals the beauty of nature’s design on the atomic level.

The particular protein that is presented in Light Harvest is called Light-Harvesting Complex (LHC), which is the solar sail of the photosynthesis components in plants and some micro-organisms that uses bundled sunlight and together with water to create sugar and oxygen, thus providing the basis for life on this planet. It is made of three amino acid chains with 207 amino acids in each of the chains. Computer algorithm-based program Grasshopper was used to create the scaffolding of the three-dimensional protein chain. 642 pieces of rollout patterns, of which 207 were unique, were laser-cut and etched at Noblitt Fabricating in Columbus Indiana and were hand-folded and assembled at my studio at Smith Research Center. The material is high-tech Kozo, a type of Japanese-made paper that comes from renewable mulberry trees.

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Layout of three canopies of Light Harvest at Smith Research Center

Video projection mapping technologies will be used to bring the light, colors, and the interactivity to live. For the artistic meanings and the science behind Light Harvest, please come to the show on Oct 14th and make sure to check out www.foldedlightart.com for more information.

Acknowledgement: This project is supported by New Frontier of Creativity and Scholarship and the Grunwald Gallery of Art at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Project Credits: 

  • Science: Susanne Ressl (Assistant Professor, Structural Biology, Indiana University)
  • Technology: Kyle Overton (Ph.D. student, HCID, Indiana University)
  • Fabrication: Steve Dixon (Noblitt Fabricating, Columbus, Indiana)
  • Production: Siqiao Gao (Undergraduate student, Interior Design, Indiana University)

 

Ruga Architectural Skin (RAS): Towards Building Smart Self-Folding Topology

Citation:

Wu, J., Anwar, S. (2016). Ruga Interior Skin (RIS): Towards Building Smart Self-Deployable Structures,” International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp. 17-30, 2016

Link to PDF

In architectural design, skin is a familiar metaphor for building envelopes that provide flexible layers of protection and are often dependent upon rigid structural supports. With advances in material technology and sustainable development, architectural skins are changing, creating new topological forms, providing new visual and tactile experiences, and becoming the conceptual bridge between our body and our environment. Can a three-dimensional architectural skin be self-assembled or self-folded from two-dimensional sheet material? Can this architectural skin be made of non-rigid material and yet provide semi-rigid structural support? What are the design considerations, tools, techniques, methods and processes of building such an architectural skin? And how can a new approach to developing an innovative architectural skin contribute to our ongoing search for energy-efficient building design, self-assembling deployable shelter, as well as sustainable construction techniques? This paper will introduce Ruga Architectural Skin (RAS), an ongoing research project exploring the potentiality of a new type of architectural skin.

“Ruga” is a Latin word for making winkles, creases, and folds, and the word has been recently used by material scientists to describe the various physical qualities of these various folded states. RAS is inspired by the use of folding to create complex topological forms from flat thin sheet material with simple and low cost tools. Folded forms have inherently rigid properties and at the same time are flexible. In comparison to other fabrication techniques, folding or bending allows for complex and innovative structures formed with simple and low cost tools at the point of assembly. From flat sheet material, folded designs can be easily deployed into a three-dimensional volume and then can be collapsed back to a two-dimensional flat shape that is much smaller for ease shipping and storage.

Many folded designs are inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. The original purpose of origami is to obtain various shapes, ranging from animals figures to objects, both abstract and figurative, by folding a flat sheet of uncut paper. Constructing a three-dimensional surface from two-dimensional sheet material in origami has inspired designers and engineers to come up with novel ways to fabricate, assemble, store and morph structures that are safe, efficient and energy saving (Edwin, Hartl, Malak, & Lagoudas, 2014), from collapsible medical stents for hearts (Kuribayashi et al., 2006) to airbags for cars. In architectural design, one of the earliest examples of exploration of paper folding and topological design of architectural system was conducted by Ron Resch (Ronald D Resch, 1973). In the last two decades, folding, both as a theoretical idea and as a means for form generation in architecture, has inspired a new generation of architects and designers to create morphogenesis architectural volumes with continuous variations and interpolations that overlaps gaps and avoid fracture (Lynn, 2004). Morphological architectural structures are starting to make use of one of the main characteristics of folding design – the kinetic ability to deploy and collapse in three-dimensional space (Liapi, 2002; Motro, 2009). More recently, researchers have been looking into using active materials that can convert various form of energy into mechanical work for folding to create self-folding (Edwin et al., 2014). However, low cost architectural skins that are deployable, configurable and that are in large scales, continue to be very challenging for architects and designers.

This architectural skin comes from two-dimensional sheet materials that can be pre-fabricated off-site and then shipped flat to the site, thus tremendously reducing the required amount of energy and resources in comparison to conventional structures. Once arriving on the site, it can be self-assembled or self-folded, suspended and reconfigured differently into various semi-structural surfaces. Although this architectural skin has roots in a paper folding art form, it proposes not only to significantly advance the technology of the art form, but also to transform this technology to the self-assembling structures that can potentially shift the paradigm in building temporary architecture.

This paper starts with a discussion of the application of origami in self-assemble and deployable architectural topologies. While objective of this paper is towards building smart self-folding architectural topology, this paper currently focuses on identifying the design considerations, tools, techniques, methods and processes of making and installing of several 1:1 scale mock-ups in corrugated cardboard, testing of varies materials, and surveying of the self-folding mechanism design and remote micro-processor control system design. Pending funding opportunity will allow us to build a 1:1 scale smart architectural skin prototype.

This research is a collaboration between Jiangmei Wu and Sohel Anwar.

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