I’m just back from Copenhagen, where I attended SmartGeometry. The event, held in a different city each year, is organized by the non-profit SmartGeometry and sponsored by software developer Bentley. It focuses on computational design, and consists of a four-day workshop in which participants explore the capabilities of digital tools, followed by a two-day conference. I’ll write about the design problems that workshop participants studied in a separate post, but wanted to tell you about one of the conference speakers that just blew my mind: London-based architect and artist Usman Haque.
Haque’s media aren’t the static stuff of bricks and mortar. Instead, he develops dynamic installations or spaces that depend on software systems and sensors to allow participants or occupants to control and reconfigure environments. It’s a little hard to explain, so check out the “Primal Source” piece he created for a festival held in Santa Monica, California in 2008. The noise made by the crowd generates a light show.
Haque is also the mastermind behind pachube.com, a Website that allows people to store and share real-time information gathered from sensors that monitor energy use and environmental data from objects, buildings, and devices around the world, helping create what Haque calls an “Internet of things.” What do people do with this site?
Here are a few typical examples listed on Pachube: an architect might use site-specific, real-time sensor data to modulate, or generate, a Sketchup model, or undertake a post-occupancy evaluation; a facilities manager might connect up specific outputs from a building management system so that energy consumption or temperature levels could be shared with the public without compromising security; or a product designer might create a set of networked objects, lamps, or furniture that react to each other at a distance, even from either sides of the planet.
And, if you happen to own a Geiger counter, and are a resident of Japan, you could upload radiation data. According to Haque, there are hundreds of such feeds that have been created on Pachube since the cooling systems at the reactors in Fukushima were disabled by last month’s earthquake and tsunami.