a sense of awareness

a sense of awareness.

If the wind starts to blow, swarms of leaves turn out to be subtle bioengineered robots that harness that very wind to propel themselves into an emergent shelter that surrounds you”.

Jaron Lanier, ‘Who owns the Future’. (2013, p.9)

The recent announcement of a 2014 IoT-conference states that “the Internet of Things (IoT) has been considered an innovative and imminent information infrastructure enabling to ubiquitously network various machines, physical devices, and objects, denoted as things, for environment sensing, information sharing and collaboration in intelligent and autonomous manner.” (italics MP)

Our homes are, next to the place to which we keep returning, also the environment where we are surrounded by memories of – past – experiences, dreams and images. Many of these are closely related to objects: many of us occupy houses that have a history of sometimes ages. These houses have witnessed generations of inhabitants, each of which has left their personal signs, marks and traces. Since decades our housing is simply ‘functioning’ , meaning that it does not ‘communicate’; a house remains a passive structure which was not ‘responsive’, let alone communicative.

In his wonderful contemplative little book ‘In Praise of Shadows’ the Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizaki reflects on spheres and objects in his house, as if they were a living element. He praises the light coming through the wooden blinds, the patina of ancient furniture, the history of a lacquered bowl. My own house is built in 1904; I know almost nothing of its history, its original decorations and paints, its former inhabitants. If we can provide objects, materials and structure with a sense of ‘awareness’ that environment can be recognisable and identifiable, it comes to ‘life’. Not only does our home ‘interact’ but its history becomes tangible and imaginable.

Relating the above to architecture provides a somewhat curious image: we build our homes for an average of 70 years; we tend to move roughly every 7 years, varying of course for each country. We – that is, usually an architect – envision a building/house which becomes a fixed structure; we pile stones, we lay wooden or concrete flooring, we add a roof. This is done the same way over centuries; a house in Roman times basically does not vary that much from a modern house. Developments in infrastructure, materials and finishing are of course modernised over time, but essentially not that much has changed. Since the last 10 years however everything in/around our housing has changed and will keep changing: it will be(come) connectable and identifiable, as a structure and as a place for inhabitation and communication. There will be no fundamental difference between structure, building, materials and objects in the sense that one is connectable and the other is not. We increasingly live in a hyper-connected world in which our house – and our home – will become an integrated, adaptable element which participates in the ubiquitous communication.

If we look at the recent works of e.g. Tomás Saraceno or Daan Roosegaarde’s Flow we witness an increasing synthesis between technology, imaginative power and environment. These projects move beyond the traditional singular approach; they try to link our sensory awareness with innovative material options; thus achieving a (spatial) experience which enhances the build framework.

It is up to all disciplines involved in ‘building’ this sphere to surpass the traditional limits of the trade/profession and their boundaries and ensure we create innovative environments for everybody; not just the modern (?) western world.

this article was publised on Dec. 1st. 2013 on IoT-world ;