biomimetic lighting systems

There are three broad market trends currently impacting architecture and urban design:  The first is the incorporation into the exteriors of buildings of novel energy conservation (e.g. solar shading systems) and generation (e.g. solar photovoltaic) features.  The second is the continued development and incorporation of “low-resolution” digital media displays on building facades and within larger urban settings.  The third is the desire for communities to develop differentiated, “branded” urban environments to stimulate their local economies.

There is tremendous innovation space contained within the overlap between these three trends.  How are lighting systems incorporated into the innovative exterior cladding systems of modern buildings?  How can urban environments create distinctive large-scale lighting pieces with low or zero energy use at an affordable total cost of ownership?

This desire for urban identification is just as strong –if not stronger—in developing regions as it is in the world’s largest metropolitan regions.  In developing regions, speed of development, lack of strong infrastructure, and the desire to push the boundaries of creative art to garner global media attention are especially critical factors.

There have been two dominant control paradigms for large architectural + urban lighting systems:  Preprogrammed scripted control systems or “pixel mapped” video content systems.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Over the years, there has been a steady but “fringe” group of artists and designers that have explored “bionic” or “biomimetic” autonomous, sensor-driven control techniques that forgo a master-control system.

The artistic potential of these biomimetic control techniques is rich:  An innate organic beauty generated by the randomness of interactions; the potential of a personal interaction with a participant; and a constant potential refreshing of the visual effect.  There are also significant technological advantages:  Reduced upfront commissioning labor; reduced programming or content creation cost; and an inherent randomness and redundant communications system, so if one node fails, it has little impact on the overall system.

In the upcoming months perhaps I can expand each of the above topics into more detailed posts…