The Sentiment Cocoon

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The Sentiment Cocoon is a site specific 20m tall interactive installation designed by architect Moritz Behrens and lighting designer Konstantinos Mavromichalis which collects and visualises the emotions of the buildings occupants.

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The No.8@arup Installation is now in its third year. An annual competition which shines the spotlight on talented designers and emerging architectural practices. Responding to the theme “Designing for People”, entrants were invited to consider how the No.8@arup Installation should reflect the need for occupants to be placed at the heart of a design brief, creating efficient and comfortable environments whereby people are not only productive yet also inspired, motivated, healthy and happy.

2015’s winning entry the Sentiment Cocoon is an interactive installation designed by architect Moritz Behrens & lighting designer Konstantinos Mavromichalis which seeks to capture people’s sentiments that will be depicted through the medium of light. Exploring new ways of making, the sculpture will be fabricated in situ, by a robot.

The Sentiment Cocoon is to represent a collective visualisation of how everyone is feeling in the Arup head quarters in London on any given day. To visualise this immediate interaction in real time through the medium of light and to represent the collective sentiment of people working in No.8 was indeed ambitious, as this installation had to be constructed within nine days in a fully functioning office.

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The LEDs are four continuous lines totalling 4800 pixels that generate complex patterns and gradients of colour. Running the entire height of the Sentiment Cocoon, circa 20 metres, the LEDs will create an enigmatic display. Natural daylight, pooling into the atrium from the skylights above will blend with the light emitted from the LEDs. This will allow for a rich interaction of varying forms of light which will be diffused through the skin of the cocoon. The translucency of the material will create an effect whereby the suspended Sentiment Cocoon will generate a striking visual display of light that has been informed by the feelings of people working at Arup.

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The sentiment will be encoded in different colours and movement. Colour gradients, the velocity of the colour and movement will be represented through patterns. Over time the patterns will become recognisable and therefore people working in No.8 will experience the overriding sentiment of the day within the office.

An interactive dashboard has been designed, with knobs, dials and buttons. Each day, Arup people will be encouraged to share their sentiments via one of the dashboards that are installed on each of the six office floors. As people approach the dashboard they will be invited to choose which mood they are in to record their sentiment of the day. People will operate a dial and this will identify their sentiment, happy, sad or indifferent. Individual swipe cards such as the London Oyster card will enable participants to submit their sentiment for the day. As everyone’s RFID enabled swipe card is unique this will allow the team to identify behaviour albeit anonymously. A sophisticated algorithm will feed participants’ feelings through the dashboard and these will be digitally projected into a light field created by LEDs that forms the spine of the cocoon.

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The Sentiment Cocoon is yet another example of the increasing proliferation of media architectural interfaces mediating human behaviour with architecture. Arup is committed to design and finding ways to stimulate innovation and creativity through playful experimentation. No.8@arup seeks to illustrate how collaboration amongst designers, across all sectors and disciplines can lead to an exploration of new technologies and techniques which influence how we design buildings. These social applications will ultimately lead to responsive, adaptable and clever buildings that serve human wellbeing.

Moritz Behrens said that the Sentiment Cocoon “is exploring the boundaries in architecture on many levels and addresses: lightweight structure, interactive lighting, HCI (human computer interaction), and robotics in building and fabrication. The collaboration between a small creative practice and large resourceful and knowledgeable corporate global company is of mutual benefit towards prototyping our future city.”

Moritz’s partner in the project, Konstantinos Mavromichalis, described the basis for the design: “What is interesting to me about an atrium is that it is a sensory space that joins together all the spaces adjacent to it, we hear ambient sounds, and we catch glimpses and echoes of conversations. This is the perfect context for the Sentiment Cocoon, whose function will be to visualise how the occupants are feeling at any given time of day by the recording of ‘sentiments’ via physical interfaces situated in and around the atrium.”

Greg Chandler, Arup Project Manager, stated,  that “this project highlights what happens when people from all disciplines collaborate. When you listen to each other and take on board other people’s thinking and different ways of working, the end result is often amazing. The fact that we have been able to construct in the middle of a fully functioning office has already engaged people within No.8”.

Nigel Tonks, Group Leader, Buildings London, commented, “The independence of Arup allows our practice to invest in young designers. The making of an installation within our office replicates the challenge of delivering within a fast paced programme that is fun and rewarding”.

Tristram Carfrae who chaired the jury panel, and Deputy Chairman, Arup stated, “I am very excited by this year’s installation for No.8@Arup. Designed by Moritz Behrens & Konstantinos Mavromichalis, the Sentiment Cocoon is a fascinating combination of robotic construction, responsive design, and a beautiful illuminated sculpture”.

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Background Notes on Winning Architect & Designer

Moritz Behrens is an architect and maker, an interaction designer and researcher aiming to combine architecture with human-computer interaction. In his work he focuses on technology-mediated interactions in urban spaces, which support citizens and communities to engage with social challenges in their city. In his recent project Moritz aims to design, deploy and research media architectural interfaces that are built on tangible user interfaces as mediators between citizens and interactive media facades. As part of the EU funded ‘Connecting Cities‘ network, he was invited to produce interactive installations amongst others in Sao Paulo, for the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz and in the European Capital of Culture Riga 2014. Moritz gained a MSc in Adaptive Architecture and Computation from UCL The Bartlett and received a masters in architecture from Technical University of Berlin.

Konstantinos Mavromichalis is part of the multidisciplinary team Urban Visuals. He has completed several interior architectural, public art and street scale responsive environments utilising embedded LED, projected light, and sensing systems, working internationally in diverse contexts. Konstantinos is interested in how unseen forces in our environment can be made visible through the use of responsive lighting, or large scale displays embedded in architectural form. He is currently working and studying at the Bartlett School of Architecture where his research includes developing interactive digital installations that relate to public space and the built environment long term. Other current projects include a 35 storey high tide visualisation (architectural illumination) in Vancouver Canada. Find more about Konstantinos’ work at www.urbanvisuals.com

The Sentiment Cocoon was facilitated by the Arup team:

Greg Chandler, Francesco Anselmo, Christian Dercks, Billy Field, Karima Ihaouane, Farrah Hassan-Hardwick, supported by Health & Safety and Facilities Management.

External support by:

Nathan Whitford, Achim Meyer, Julian Adenauer, Connor Black, Tristan Defert, Toufic el Dirani, Juergen Arnold, Tobias Kuppel

Volunteer support by:

Martin Traunmüller, Tom Haynes, Tomas Slovik, Shneel Malik, Mihail Dinu, Alvin Lim, Sarmad Suhail, YouHan Hu

The Sentiment Cocoon was up between the beginning of May 2015 until the end of August 2015 at Arup No. 8 Fitzroy street, London UK.

Arup created the following time-lapse video of the construction process: