Gravity Screens- Crowd Choreographing Architecture

Gravity Screens are a responsive architecture whose form results from gravity’s effect on their material patterning. They are composed from elastomers of different Shore hardness that allow the screens to alter their shape horizontally, from flat to curved, and vertically from collapsed to extended. Rubber’s elasticity and high weight to volume ratio make it problematic as a self-supporting material. However, the compounded effect of excessive weight on a stretchable material causes it to stiffen and hence become structured. This material property became the basis to develop deployable screens that can move between mutable and stiff.

Screens as a system for spatial organization are inherently flexible.  Unlike walls, their relation to the spaces they differentiate is tenuous.  Their architectural ingenuity lies in the fact that they are deployable; there when needed removed when not. But what if disappearance was the last resort? What if the screen could  adapt  itself  to  a  variety  of  configurations  facilitating  new  spatial  interactions  and  differentiations?  What  if  these  organizations  were  in  response  to  environmental  conditions  that  rubber’s  materiality  could effect?  Rubber is a very good insulator for sound.  As such, using electronic sensors and actuators, the screen  could  be  dynamically  shaped  in  response  to  sound  conditions  in  the  spaces  within  which  it  is deployed.  As  a  series  of  networked  structures,  such  screens  would  create  visual  and  aural  modalities within the space that could alter the way we perceive and inhabit such spaces.

Crowds are a particularly problematic occupant for architecture. Their behavior is ordered when their movement is controlled, chaotic when panicked. Architecture has historically been the means to exact discipline on a crowd’s movement, through its walls, ramps and corridors. It has also been its victim when the crowd turns violent breaking windows and burning buildings. There is safety to be found in the ordered crowd and danger in the mob. As Elias Canetti has so astutely observed in Crowds and Power, the crowd exists only in movement and dissipates once motion ceases. But since architecture has only reacted in resistance to movement it cannot anticipate the evolution of the crowd.

Gravity Screens provide an alternative architecture that looks to choreograph the crowd. Because its morphology can change, it can effect circulation by reconfiguring itself into a different organization. The example shown here demonstrates how it can change circulation from orthogonal to polar. Through simple mechanical actions of rotation and stretching the screens reconfigure space which reorients movement. An agile architecture that choreographs the crowd.

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