Blue Crystal

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Located offshore Dubai,  the Blue Crystal integrates a tracking system capable of identifying the footprints of the visitors, in specific areas, enabling them to leave their mark on the surroundings by projecting the footprints on the ground behind them. As soon as the dusk become evident on the horizon, the structure transforms into a splendid illumination, which keeps changing after each hour like a giant timepiece, giving a magnificent view to the spectators on the mainland. The Blue Crystal is adorned with interactive tables that integrating a watery surface to let the guests use an interface to play with sound waves.

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Cybertecture Egg

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The Cybertecture Egg, in Indias Mumbia, will be one of the most high-tech offices in the world with PV panels, a wind turbine and a sky garden that will generate electricity via thermolysis as well as an eco-cool water filtration system that will recycle grey water for use in the building. The futuristic office will also have on-site health check systems like weigh-ins and blood pressure monitors installed in the washrooms.

Peter Zumthor Atmospheres

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I have just read Peter Zumthors book ‘Atmospheres’ that give some interesting insights into what he thinks determine the make up of a successfully appropriate atmosphere. ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ was a quote from the book that reinforces my premise that the ambience is only appropriate as far as the specific occupant.

I outline his 9 points of consideration for ambience:

1.  The Body of Architecture

Materiality, the make up of the architecture – Architecture as a Human Environment

2.  Material Compatibility

The relationships between the materials and the architecture/inhabitants and the surroundings

3.  The Sound of Space

The shape peculiar to each room and the surfaces of the materials they contain shape the acoustics and therefore atmosphere

4.  The Temperature of Space

The feeling in relation to the human bodies comfort level

5.  Surrounding Objects

Organisation of Space

6.  Between Composure and Seduction

How architecture involves movement

7.  Tension between Interior and Exterior

The interplay between the two and the boundaries created

8.  Levels of Intimacy

Proximity and distance. Eg: Lower ceilings make concentration amplified

9.  The Light on Things

How materials reflect light and the benefits of natural over artificial

Daylight Linking

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Jean Nouvels “Institute de Monde Arabe” in paris. Visibility and ambience controlled by actuators. These diaphragms operate like a camera lens to control the sun’s penetration into the interior of the building. The changes to the irises are dramatically revealed internally while externally a subtle density pattern can be observed.

Detail to show the facade of the “Institute de Monde Arabe” showing an actuator to control the openness in the façade.

Comfort Assessment

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Pioneering work in the field of thermal comfort by Bedford (1936) and then Humphrey (1975) suggested the phenomenon of ‘adaptation’. It suggested that when given the opportunity to choose, people have the ability to adapt over very wide ranges of thermal environments.
The adaptive opportunity theory suggests that the threshold of discomfort relates to the extent to which users can adapt to changing environmental conditions by behavioural adjustments, acclimatization and expectation. Occupants accepts a greater variably in natural phenomenon than in artificial environmental systems.

Comfort Analysis Method


Baker devised a ‘Portable Array for the Measurement of Physical Ambience’s’ PAMPA  that subjectively evaluates ambient measurements. It is worn on the head of the user and therefore is non obstructive and non invasive of the occupants space. The device measures:
  • Ambient Temperature
  • Radiant Temperature
  • Relative Humidity
  • Air Movement
  • Illuminance Levels
  • Noise Level
  • Air Quality

The ’PAMPA’ allows data recording during a maximum time of 12 hours at 10 second intervals.

Architecture and Neuroscience

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A question still explored by modern neuroscience, is to understand what particular tangible factors have a notable impact on our perception within space. Armed with our previous knowledge on the parameters that affect our biochemical make up, how can we design spaces that have a more constant appeal to the neural patterns throughout a cross section of society?

This is where our connection with architecture provides fascinating potential; in architecture we can control these tangible factors in an environment. Preconceived ideas, previous exposure to medium and cultural background inevitably shape our feelings towards design, however neuroscience offers the potential to understand more about the rhythm of feelings created; excitement, comfort or awe in correlation to the placement in architectural space.

Architects are often seen as a profession solely concerned with the aesthetic of their designs. However, a well-designed building should primarily enhance the behavioural qualities of the inhabitant and promote wellbeing. As such they provide the occupants with appropriate lighting, heating and cooling, acoustics and a well designed ‘shell’ in which to perform the task at hand. Further investigation into neuroscience in architecture could help inform architects how to design offices that promote productivity, classrooms that help concentration and adaptable homes depending on the mood or activity being undertaken.

The field of environmental psychology and neuroscience is so vast that the task of understanding the multiple interactions of the brain in responding to memories and senses seems daunting. However, our current medical knowledge reveals that careful science can lead to successful generalizations and hypotheses about how and why our bodies respond as they do. The scientific method, that prescribes careful experiments and controlled testing, has been a successful model for understanding new discoveries in science for years. In a similar way, controlled experimental design could increase our understanding of our responses to the elements of architectural settings.

Smart Environments and Ambient Intelligence

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Ambient Intelligence is the term to describe an environment that has been enriched by the implementation of technology. It is essentially a smart environment that can be responsive or adaptable to the user’s requirements. In an intelligent environment, devices work in cohesion to support people in carrying out their everyday life activities and tasks in an natural and intuitive way.

Cook and Das are environmental psychologists who define the smart environment as “a small world where different kinds of smart device are continuously working to make inhabitants’ lives more comfortable.”

Smart Environments: Technologies, Protocols and Applications, Diane J. Cook and Sajal K. Das, June 2008

One role of ambient intelligence is to further optimise services by increasing usability, however another role is to enhance the quality of the experience itself. Our perception and interpretation of a space is what dictates our mood, and our mood is hugely dependant on what our perception of the space is. For Ambient Intelligence to heighten our experiences by reflecting our moods, it must therefore be able to control our environment. As society becomes more dominated by technology, things that were once inert become responsive. Architectural elements can now be enhanced by smart devices that transform the environment into a space that can sense.

But what does this mean for the future of architecture? Advances in new technologies can facilitate a reversion to a more user centric time of architectural design, where the environments built are not just containers of activities but they are part of the activities and have influence over the story of the experience.

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