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Rhythmical Topography: Kinetic Interactive Architecture

written by
Han Eunju
materials provided by
edited by
Park Semi

Daily Impressions
The rhythm of our daily lives typically takes place according to a certain cycle. With the repeated cycles ranging from 24 hours to a week and up to a month and a year, our everyday life unfolds within a recurring time frame. Throughout history, architecture, the container of our lifestyles, has transformed concepts of space according to the changing concepts of time. In particular, the cycle remains as it was in the space of architecture. While religious architecture, such as a cathedral, came to invent the rose window and clerestory, creating a sacred atmosphere from daylight, ordinary architecture made spatial structures suitable for farming and hunting.


Compression of Time-Space 
‘Social time and social space are compressed’, said David Harvey. Modes of transportation, such as a train, have expanded our spatial horizons and those we may experience within a single day, while industrialisation and urbanisation further segmented our daily lives; going to work in the morning, having lunch, and going home in the afternoon. This has resulted in further compression of living spaces in a city. For example, before industrialisation, the family living space was expanded through the addition of various spaces necessary for farming, and each indoor space was served by abundant outdoor space. On the other hand, in an industrialised city, one occupies less space due to the high population density and increasing number of immigrants seeking employment, leaving the living space reduced to a minimum. Modern architecture clearly demonstrates time- space compression. Circulation is minimised within a living space, and building materials and construction methods faithfully reflect industrialisation of production in architecture. Even in outside living spaces found in cities are equipped with an engineered and time-compressed infrastructure to improve efficiency (one does not have to fetch water from a well, as a water supply is connected to each house).


The Rise of Data Collection and Use
Advances in technology have paved the way for the more directed collection of data over time and space. Now the change in daily indicators of each space in a city can be tracked using data. Big data is mobilised for data-based tracking of urban life and cited in analysis of social phenomena. We can get real- time data at specific geographic coordinates (more segmented space) and of smaller areas. Segmented data enables us to identify and recognise a wider range of space in an integrated way. This is a kind of ‘Rhythm Analysis’. Information and communication technology helps us to analyse various daily rhythms. Reconstructing spatial and temporal topography can, by visualising changes in rhythm for each urban space, provide us with a topography of time-space. Real-time data of each location, though invisible means, generates a changing traffic elevation, that is, a rhythmical topography.​

Need for a New Topography
Traditionally, the first step in any architectural design has been the analysis of natural topography, but now we may have to deal with the analysis of urban rhythmical topography first. In urban space, our daily time and space are increasingly compressed, and the range of our perception of space and time has expanded into the virtual world beyond the physical world. Influenced by the change in our lifestyles, the rhythm of daily life becomes faster and one’s stage of life is expanding in its outline. The development of architectural space is not unrelated to that of this social space and time. Architecture is a container of our daily lives. Macroscopically, the conditions described above constitute the perception of space, while, microscopically, individual situations can be elaborated upon in greater detail in architecture with the aid of rhythmical topography. Building up over time, urban rhythmical topography reveals movement and energy changes in urban space over a day or a week. Depending on individual circumstances, it can contribute to creating an advanced spatiality, that is ambience.​

Urban rhythm and locative virtural layers 

Situation: Connection Between a City and a Citizen
Letʼs take a closer look. Forming axes of different angles, our daily life is in a situation whereby time, space, and events are constantly changing. Urban spaces are linked to human beings through situations. They are key factors in the mutual communication between urban space, architectural space, and our daily lives.​

Datafication of the Situation and a New Horizon for Spatial Experience
This may play an important role in the production of a new kind of space. Since it contains space-time information, the situation can be collected as numerical information or data. Using the data, we can track how people occupy environments over time, and predict the interaction between human beings and the built environment from the context of urban space. When we control the fluctuations and flows of data at the threshold between a city and architectural space and visualise it as a physical element, we can create a space that closely reflects the situation through the architectural setting. An Ambience Wall realises a particular urban situation in an architectural way, and so creates a new space. Many real-time situations in which the time-space dimension created by internal and external factors of architecture play across the parameters of the Ambience Wall. We expand the spatial experience by changing the atmosphere around us. The Ambience Wall creates a new space that can expand the horizons of human spatial experience by materialising changes of situation in space.

The Urban’s Atmosphere
Urban spaces are as volatile and changeable as the changing fabric of everyday life. It may rain or suddenly become fine; we may be busy, or suddenly have lots of free time. We think we live in a static environment with towering buildings, but we actually live in diverse and dynamic environments; changes in weather, movements of people, various means of transportation. All of these elements do not stand out as specific visual factors, but can influence our spatial experience in a given urban atmosphere. If this real-time situation is applied to architecture in a specific way, I guess we would be able secure a more dynamic and urban contextual space related to time, events, and the conditions of the city. Can we envisage a future in which we experience a space that reflects real-time interaction between human beings, architecture, and environments?​

Ambience Wall: A New Urban Vision
The real-time situation of a city can be gathered and understood as numerical information through situation recognition technology. Numerical information can function as a parameter representing the interaction between people and architecture. Here, human beings act as a source of an algorithm that applies urban mobility factors to architecture. Urban environment parameters can be applied to architecture, especially, to the skin of a building. Parameters can provide an environment that automatically controls and changes communication environments between individual architecture and urban spaces; the mechanism of Ambience Wall, which is operated by sensors and parameters. Changing spatiality through the control of shadow and light influx into and across the building is the greatest influence on the environmental resonance of the building. The façade system reacts in real time with parameters that reflect the changing micro- weather conditions around the building and human activities, creating an interactive atmosphere in the heart of the city. The Ambience Wall responds to internal spactial programmes and ambient conditions to induce communication between interior and exterior and to express the city with great intimacy. It becomes a new expression of the city that can reflect a new way of life, and become its own urban atmosphere.​ (written by Han Eunju / edited by Park Semi)


Han Eunju
Han Eunju received her PhD from the Royal College of Art, after the working at SPACE Group. The title of her dissertation was ‘Research on Location- Based Interaction Design in Urban Space’. She presented an artwork that combines architecture and media art at SIGGRAPH 2009, and was an invited artist at the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011. She won 2017 Korea Institue of Architecture (KIA) Special Prize of Innovation, World Architecture Award (WA) the 25th, Red Dot Design Award 2017, AAP Architecture Prize Honorable mention, 2017 Architectureal Institue of Korea (AIK) Smart city award, 2018 The Good Place Award the 3rd Museum area grand prize , 2019 Space Design alliance of Korea (SDAK) space award. Han was the editor-in-chief of SPACE and a board member of SPACE Group. Currently, she is the principal of softarchitecturelab, concerned with innovative urban design and architecture through artworks, writing and design engineering.