Designing interactive architecture: structure and behavior

2 days workshop | 06-07th Jul | 18 seats available

Introduction: Along with digital fabrication and other digital technology techniques, interactions enabled by microcontrollers are becoming each day more frequent and affordable within the architectural context. On the one hand, software modeling and digital fabrication techniques are frequently used as a tool for thinking, modeling, visualize and produce architectural spaces. This fact has enabled a remarkable revolution in formal terms, regarding the built environment. On the other hand, the introduction of digital technology within the architectural product has been enabling the development of spaces that effectively interact and adapt to their contexts.

The constant increase in digital information processing capacity, along with its decreasing price and with the development of programming platforms and languages accessible to people without specialized knowledge, have facilitated the dissemination of digital technology within the built environment. Interactive architecture, as we understand here, is a direct result of this process and is the theme addressed by this workshop. In order to deal with this topic, we will begin by introducing basic technical issues involved in its design process. Next, we will present, discuss and apply nine conceptual parameters to be used on the design of interactive spaces.

To cover the technical issues, the Arduino platform will be used. Basic control and sensing experiments will be executed by the participants, with the goal of understanding the nature of logical procedures that can be implemented in interactive architecture. These experiments are proposed to set up a discussion about how traditional construction solutions can be coupled with computational components and new materials, whose physical characteristics are likely to be controlled. These combinations lead to a whole range of possibilities regarding the creation of dynamic architectural structures with embedded computing.

The i|o Cards, a set of structural and conceptual paper cards, were developed to act as support in developing interactive objects and spaces. They will be presented and used as a guide for developing a proposal of an interactive space on the second day of the workshop. The cards contain, in particular, conceptual parameters that can be used as a set of requirements to be taken into account during the design process, with the aim of stimulating conversations and offer alternative perspectives of the discussed topics.

Goals:The goal of the workshop is to try out and discuss strategies for the design of interactive spaces and contexts, mixing technical and conceptual issues. To do this, practical activities will be conducted with the support of the Arduino platform and the i|o Cards.

What participants will learn in the workshop: In this workshop, participants will get in touch with the basic principles of programming and the operation of microcontrollers, sensors and actuators, as well as conceptual parameters to be applied on the design of interactive spaces and contexts. In this sense, the topics addressed at the workshop will provide inputs for a grounded approach to the relation between architecture and digital technologies, broadening participant’s repertoire of design strategies and concepts.

Target and previous knowledge: This workshop is intended for architects, designers and artists interested on the design of interactive spaces, contexts and experiences. No prior knowledge of programming and electronics is required.

Material and hardware required:

 > Papers (A2, A3) and sketching materials
 > Laptop with Arduino Software (available at
 > 1 microcontroller board Arduino Uno (or equivalent) with USB cable
 > 1 protoboard (a board to prototype electronic circuits)
 > 1 set of jumpers for the protoboard;

  * Sensors and actuators will be provided by the instructor to be used during the workshop;


Day 1
> Introduction;
> Presentation: architectural spaces with embedded computing;
> Introduction to Arduino;
> Blinking an LED.
> Digital and analog actuators (LED?s);
> Digital and analog sensors  - photosensor, potentiometer, switch, button;
> Discussion.

Day 2
> i|o Cards - conceptual parameters for the design of interactive architecture;
> Practical project;
> Practical project finalization;
> Presentation and final discussion.