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a2o installation by Jonathan Grinham

a2o installation by Jonathan Grinham was developed as a full-scale prototype designed within Michael Fox’s classification of dynamic kinetic structure. These systems are understood to be singular systems able to actively influence localized climates within a building system. In the case of a2o, the design was based on the narrative of a sun-shading interface.


The design focuses on the capacity for realization. Therefore, a plug and play nodal design was adopted. A nodal design allowed a2o to have a small profile in elevation as well as a singular physical connection to the system’s framework. The use of a nodal system also shifted the understanding of a2o from an architecture that required a host building to an architectural product that was an expandable piece/part system. The team envisioned a bottom up design for the physical construction within a top down computational logic. Each unit contains dedicated sensors (infrared range finder and photocell) and dedicated actuators (linear actuator, RGB LED, and piezo buzzer). Sensory data collected by each individual unit is relayed to a master controller – in this case an Arduino microprocessor – which controls a pixel of five units. The master controller would then describe an action for the individual units to perform in direct relationship to the sensory data it collected. If the master controller recognizes a specific set of data – in this case no data – it could then describe a preset task for all of the units within its pixel to perform, producing a top down response. This logic structure, described as cellular automaton, allows for the piece/part system to be expanded infinitely as each pixel within the system becomes a unit within the subsequent pixel.

To understand a2o fully we present a narrative//

A field of extended a2o units is arrayed across a building’s southern curtain wall, the morning sun peers around the adjacent building and each unit slowly compresses, blossoming proportionally to the amount of light it senses. The result is an emergent texture driven by the light and shadows of the surrounding environment. As the day continues, the units compress to a fully open state nesting within one another to produce an opaque surface, fully shading the space within. The building occupants arrive and the façade takes on a new aesthetic – the building becomes a living poché. As the users circulate through the space, their silhouettes are impressed upon the field as fenestrations moving through the facade. The individual units extend out from their contracted state when their localized distance sensor perceives users in the space. The result is an isolated view for the users. As the sun falls, the units return to an extended state, having completed their daily task, but their work is not finished. At night a2o once again seeks out its human counterparts. In this case, however, when a user is present, a2o compresses and illuminates, providing the user with light and privacy. a2o also has a logic of its own. As the day slows a2o recognizes that nightly activities decrease, and it feels bored. In this situation, if a2o has not sensed users in the space for a given period of time, it is capable of displaying a topographic image across its surface, providing a range of information or possibly replaying the more exciting events of the day.