Monday, August 11, 2008

Bionic Urban Systems aka CyBURG

Two theoretical projects recently found on Archinect demonstrate the increased potential of bionic urban systems.

The first is an idea for a subway turnstile that generates electricity when people move through the turnstile through the rotation of the gear. It is designed by Chris Teeter and Chris Booth of Metamechanics. It is part of a broad movement of designers proposing to use the kinetic energy of everyday life as an alternative source of power. Many designs have been proposed, including public plazas with paving tiles that generate power as people walk over them, dance floors which transform the energy of people dancing into a usable form of power for the club, and human powered gyms in Hong Kongalready done in Hong Kong). The MIT Media Lab is producing tons of applications for this idea.

What I like about Metamechanics' proposal is both the brilliance in its simplicity, and the awesome illustration they produced to sell the idea. I love its use of the comic medium to make the idea more accessible. One scary thought: there is something very Matrix-like about using humans moving through a mechanical turnstile to generate electricity. Let's hope those turnstiles don't develop their own intelligence any time soon! Or one day we might find ourselves permanently trapped in the subway system.

To see the rest of the comic strip and an interesting discussion on the proposal click here.

The second project is more conceptual. It is the "Augmented Ecologies" project designed by Guido Maciocci, which is an installation which fully integrates multiple biological and technological systems into an interactive experience between man, machine, and nature. Utilizing computers connected to plants, users are able to modify their spatial environment through light and sound phenomena. A broader application was explored in his "Augmented Landscapes" project, which Maciocci himself describes here:

The deployment of biotechnological interfaces to mediate habitation of outdoor urban spaces is explored conceptually within the context of my thesis project situated on the Chatham Waterfront, Medway, UK. In this project spatial and ecological conditions emerge from the deployment of a modular surface that responds to the surrounding context in it’s variations of modular density, scale and intensity of folding. The surface is deployed so that the directionality of the modules attenuates surface flow (flood waters, precipitation, surface flow from the city) allowing diverse microhabitats to emerge between the modules. In time the landscape will gradually be populated by local species according to varying soil conditions created by the surface.

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