Archinect
Jacob Peel

Jacob Peel

Portland, OR, US

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Light Bricks

Students in the College of Design, Construction and Planning are regularly asked to pour a significant amount of time and energy into their projects. The areas of study offered in this college have earned a reputation of being some of the more difficult and most time-consuming. The studio becomes the place where a student spends the majority of their time, and a good night’s sleep doesn’t come until the end of a semester. Students take a fair amount of pride in soldiering through such a work load, but at the same time, such a work load needs to be counter balanced and some mode of reprieve is usually sought out. As a result, peripheral and playful activities are introduced, and on any given night, it is common to see footballs, hacky sacks and Frisbees being tossed about in the Atrium of the Architecture Building.
In considering this situation, the distinction between practical and playful is obfuscated. Instead of occupying opposite ends of a polemic, it can be understood that there exists much overlap between practical and playful initiatives. And so, in this building, it is practical to be playful.
The lighting strategy that was suggested stems from these considerations. This scheme was less concerned with addressing the pragmatic issue of appropriately lighting a space, but instead developed from an interest in offering a more playful venue by deploying an interactive system of lighting; lights that are used to play various games.
The interactive lighting system would be located in the south-eastern corner on the second floor of the Architecture Building. Being both out-of-the-way and relatively contained, this location would be ideal for allowing a sort of arcade to be installed without disrupting the building’s normal activities. The section at this location also maintains the arena-like situation with balconies looking into the space, which would allow students who are not directly engaged with the interactive lighting system to be included as spectators; watching, rooting or heckling. The importance of this idea is that a good interactive design is not simply about a person and a machine interacting, but should also foster interaction between people. In this area of the building, on-lookers can look on from various levels and an audience can collect within the space.
The array of lights would extend up three floors along the northern brick wall. The running bond pattern of the wall modulates the organization of the array. Each component of the array is dimensioned according to that of a single brick. The idea is not to carve out any of the existing bricks, but to simply provide a new illuminated face to the bricks, and in effect, render those as “Light Bricks”. The attachment of each Light Brick component would be anchored into the vertical mortar joints. These attachments would be minimal and would not jeopardize the structural integrity of the wall.
Each Light Brick in the array is networked together into a microcontroller that handles the input/output signals according to whatever program that has been uploaded onto it. An Arduino platform operates well in this capacity. It was suggested that an application can be developed to allow for a more familiar interface that uses increasingly ubiquitous web enabled devices, such as an iPhone or Android phone. In this way, a person can scroll through the games available to be played and make a selection, at which point the computer would upload the appropriate program to the microcontroller. This application could also be used to display game information -- like game instructions, individual performance, high score histories, etcetera -- using the phone.

 
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Status: Unbuilt
Location: Gainesville, FL, US

 

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