AR3Aue13 / AR3Aue14

Research and Design in Interactive Architecture.

Hyperbody Research Group – Faculty of Architecture – TU Delft


Student: Remko Siemerink – 1009257 –

Tutor: ir. J.C. Hubers

Date: 27-8-2007




Sensory enhanced Bamboostic!

A real-time dynamic responsive feedback loop for balance.

Remko Siemerink

Faculty of Architecture at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands


Keywords:      Interactive Architecture, Sensors, Programming, Real-time, Balance, Responsive Structure, Dynamics

Abstract:         The interactive installation “Bamboostic!” consists of a “forest” of 18, 4 meter tall bamboo “trees” augmented with pneumatic muscles enabling them to be independently bent controllably in any direction to various degrees. To be able to do this, an “artificial organ of balance” was developed so that the trees would “know” in which direction and to what degree they are bent currently. An interesting side effect of this type of balance control is that the trees will automatically readjust themselves when the balance is disturbed, for example by a visitor touching or shaking the tree. Although the balance system was not incorporated in the realized design of the installation, a prototype was made and tested extensively. In this paper the idea and the development of the prototype is reported and evaluated. Furthermore some background information is given on interactive and responsive architecture.

1                          Introduction

For the Game Set Match II symposium[1], held at the Faculty of Architecture of the TU Delft from 29th March to 1st April 2006 a group of Bachelor and Master students from the Hyperbody Research Group [HRG] [2] together developed an interactive installation to be exposed in the hall of the faculty.

There were only 8 weeks available for the development and production of the installation. Furthermore there was a limited budget and we were advised to work wit the materials and equipment available at the HRG; the most important one being Festo Pneumatic Muscles and a computer-controlled “valve-organ” (figure 6d and 13b).

For the installation various concepts were conceived. We were looking for something fitting the scale of the hall where it would be exposed. Furthermore it should exhibit the theory and technology of the HRG. It should interact with the visitors of the conference somehow and they should be teased to experience the installation. In the end the Bamboostic!-concept was considered to suit the demands best. The installation consists of a “forest” of 18, 4 meter tall bamboo “trees” augmented with pneumatic muscles enabling them to be independently bent controllably in any direction to various degrees (see figure 1) [3].










Figure 1. Bamboostic! At the Game Set and Match conference, HRG, Bouwkunde, TU Delft, 2006.

2                          About INTERACTIVE AND responsive architecture

Since the beginning of the 90’s a new kind of architecture has emerged, where buildings or building-components become more and more interactive. This kind of architecture is sometimes calles “responsive architecture”.

The common definition of responsive architecture, as described by many authors, is a class of architecture or building that demonstrates an ability to alter its form, to continually reflect the environmental conditions that surround it. The term responsive architecture was given to us by Nicholas Negroponte[4], who first conceived of it during the late nineteen sixties when spatial design problems were being explored by applying cybernetics to architecture. Negroponte proposes that responsive architecture is the natural product of the integration of computing power into built spaces and structures, and that better performing, more rational buildings are the result. Negroponte also extends this mixture to include the concepts of recognition, intention, contextual variation, and meaning into computing and its successful (ubiquitous) integration into architecture. (Source: ‘Using Actuated Tensegrity Structures to Produce a Responsive Architecture’ , by Tristan d’Estrée Sterk[5] from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago[6], USA)


A division can be made between two types of responsive architecture:

1.       Responsive architecture with a physical function.

2.       Responsive architecture with an aesthetical or experience-based function.

3.       Cross-overs between the ones above.


The first type incorporates for example skyscrapers in Asia in earth quake zones, where movement of the building due to earthquake shocks are tried to be corrected by large pistons in the base of the building or a pendulum at the top of the building. Furthermore, oil platform-like structures exist, that float in the ocean and correct the movement of the waves by adjusting pistons to the floats underneath. Here even additional energy can be gained from the movement of the water and stored in batteries. Similar concepts exist for wind, as Michael A. Fox[7] of the Kinetic Design Group[8] suggests: “If the building could change its posture, tighten its muscles and brace itself against the wind, its structural mass could literally be cut in half.” Another example is found in the car industry: Bose developed an active suspension system (figure 2), that can readjust the length and stiffness of the suspension in real-time.


Figure 2. Bose Active suspension. (source:


Examples of the second (and third) type are the Institut du Monde Arabe by Jean Nouvel in Paris (fig. 3). Here diaphragms in the façade are controlled to change the openings in the façade to regulate the natural light inside. The look of the façade subtly changes accordingly. Another example is the Medina Umbrellas project by Bodo Rasch in Medina. Here also the shading is controlled by opeing and closing the umbrellas (fig. 4).



Figure 3: Institut du Monde Arabe, Jean Nouvel, Paris, France, 1981


Figure 4: Medina Umbrellas, Bodo Rasch,  1971


The HRG has been actively reseaching and designing interactive and responsive architecture since 2001. Several projects have been developed by the Bachelor and Master students and PhD researchers of the group. The figures below show the most important ones, the ‘Muscle’-series, of them.




Figure 6 a,b,c,d. The NSA Muscle by ONL, 2003. (source:



Figure 7. Muscle Reconfigured, by The Hyperbody Research group, 2003.



Figure 8. Muscle Tower I, by The Hyperbody Research group, 2004. (Source:



Figure 9. Muscle Tower II, by The Hyperbody Research group, 2004. (Source:


Figure 10. Muscle Body , by The Hyperbody Research group, 2005. (Source:


Figure 11. Muscle Room , by The Hyperbody Research group, 2005. (Source:


Figure 12. Bamboostic , by The Hyperbody Research group, 2006. (Source:



Figure 13. Muscle Space , by The Hyperbody Research group, 2007. (Source:



Figure 14. Muscle Facade , by The Hyperbody Research group, 2007. (Source:


3                          bamboostic interactivity

The Interactive concept for the Bamboostic!-installation was developed to create a specific multiple-user-interaction with the conference visitors entering and passing by the “forrest”. Furthermore an “unpredictable” second influence was introduced by a goldfish in an aquarium, which was tracked at the other side of the hallway.

The movement of the visitors was tracked in real-time, and mapped over the bamboo-tree-layout. A script was developed in Virtools, running on a separate computer to handle the tracking. The coordinates of the visitors were sent to the Muscle-computer through OSC (Open Sound Control) [9]. The position of the fish was mapped similarly on the bamboo-tree-layout, by a tracking script in Max/MSP[10] running on a separate macintosh, also sending the data in real-time through OSC. The result is the bamboo-field moving quietly when there are no visitors and the trees are controlled by the fish. When there are visitors present in the “forrest” the interaction becomes more complex and unpredictable.

The Virtools script on the main computer considers the points generated by the fish and the visitors as attractors for the trees. When an attractor enters a certain area surrounding a tree the tree(s) will react by bending towards or away from the attractor. This process is visualized on a large screen, visible to the visitors (see figure 1f).

Although in the final installation the balance system was discarded, it was fully developed and tested. In the following paragraph the balance system will be explained.

4                          sensory balance

Figure 15. Human Labyrinth, from the left ear. It contains i) the cochlea (yellow), which is the peripheral organ of our auditory system; ii) the semicircular canals (brown), which transduce rotational movements; and iii) the otoliths (in the blue/purple pouches), which transduce linear accelerations. The light blue pouch is the endolymphatic sac, and contains only fluid. (source: Wikipedia)

The idea for the balance organ is quite similar to the human organ of balance (see image above). Instead of the canals filled with fluids, the Bamboostic trees are equipped with an accelerometer-sensor from Phidgets inc. [11] (see figure 16). This USB sensor is placed at the top of the tree. The USB output is brought to the computer via an extension cable and a hub. The values are read in Max/MSP and sent to Virtools again by OSC.

Figure 16. The accelerometer Phidget. (source:


5                          programming

Virtools uses a graphical interface for programming with node-based elements, or “building blocks”. The scripts developed look like this:

Figure 17. The initialisation and Muscle controller script.


 Figure 18 The tilt-sensor (accelerometer) scripts and the cript controlling a single tree. (See appendix for a larger version).


The scripts shown above control the behaviour described in paragraph 4.

6                          Conclusion and recommandations

Although the balance system developed was very effective and completely square with the “Hyperbody body of thought”, it was discarded in the realized desigen, because of the limited time and budget. This was a shame, but an effective time-based alternative was used. The pros of using a balance system is that one can control the bending of the tree in a much more controlled way, independent of the fluctuating pressure of the  air-supply and possible leaks and other flaws.

Inventing, building and testing the balanced version of the Bamboostic!-tree however was a very valuable and joyful experience. I strongly suggest using smart sensory feedback-loops in subsequent Muscle-projects and in the interactive or reactive architectural projects of the future. Even more potential lies in connecting the (multiple) sensors to an active and adaptive learning systems, so that the creation (or creature) can learn how to behave in different situations and make the best decisions accordingly, just like humans and other species do.



Sandhana, Lakshmi. Smart Buildings Make Smooth Moves. [Accessed 31-8-2006].

Debatty, Regine. Responsive Architecture. [Accessed 17-5-2006].

The Game Set and Match II conference website.

Wikipedia. Responsive architecture.
Web: [Accessed 27-8-2007]

Fox, Michael A. Ephemeralization.
Web: [Accessed 27-8-2007]

Fox, Michael A. Beyond Kinetic.
Web: [Accessed 27-8-2007]

d’Estrée Sterk, Tristan. Using Actuated Tensegrity Structures to Produce a Responsive Architecture.
Web: [Accessed 27-8-2007]

Glynn, Ruairi. Some thoughts on Responsive Kinetic Architecture. [27-7-2006]


Phidgets Inc. Web:


Interactive Architecture Blog. Web:


[4]   Nicholas is founder and chairman of the One Laptop per Child non-profit association. He is currently on leave from MIT, where he was co-founder and director of the MIT Media Laboratory, and the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Technology. A graduate of MIT, Nicholas was a pioneer in the field of computer-aided design, and has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1966. Conceived in 1980, the Media Laboratory opened its doors in 1985. He is also author of the 1995 best seller, Being Digital, which has been translated into more than 40 languages. In the private sector, Nicholas serves on the board of directors for Motorola, Inc. and as general partner in a venture capital firm specializing in digital technologies for information and entertainment. He has provided start-up funds for more than 40 companies, including Wired magazine.

[5]   Tristan d’Estrée Sterk is founder of the Office For Robotic Architectural Media & Bureau For Responsive Architecture. Web:

[7]   Michael A. Fox teaches Interactive Design at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI_ARC) in Los Angeles and at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

[10] Max/MSP is software for interactive applications by Cycling ’74. Web: