Making a name for himself by spearheading what is considered by many the most advanced coal transition strategy in the United States along with being a part of the core team that successfully launched the hemp industry across the United States through the 2014 Farm Bill, J. Eric Mathis has been at the forefront of Regional & Urban Design strategies throughout the southeast with a specific focus on regenerative design and innovation. During his 15+ year career in applied sustainability, Mr. Mathis has been a part of and/or spearheaded numerous national movements including launching one of the first Renewable Energy Initiatives in the U.S. (2007), playing an important role in linking coal-dependent communities to the Green Jobs Movement in collaboration with former White House special advisor for Green Jobs Van Jones (2008), co-designing an award-winning coal-transition model called Sustainable Williamson that was centered around linking economic/entrepreneurial development to health & wellness with a specific focus on Social Determinants of Health (2012), and was a part of the core team that successfully legalized hemp in the U.S. where he began in KY (2014) then successfully spearheaded the design and implementation of both WV (2015) and NC (2017) industrial hemp pilot programs. His most recent work in his home town of Winston Salem is being co-developed in collaboration with the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities and is poised to become a national model mid-2020.
Zi Yong “Zed” Ng
Zi Yong Ng, or Zed, is a Singapore-born New Zealand-based multimedia designer that is currently in his final year of study in the Bachelor of Design Innovation at Victoria University of Wellington. Zed’s area of interest focuses on the integration of art, design, science and technology in outputs such as multimedia installations and digitally created designs. As part of the VUW’s Summer Research Programme, Zed conducted background research into relevant LASG projects, animated printed forms and soft robotics. Zed has also created prototypes to demonstrate power, communication and microprocessor control and scoping actuation methods suitable for 4D printed kinetic structures.
Richard Mui is a structural designer at Blackwell Structural Engineers who is interested in how structural analysis can be used to inform decision making in architectural design. His Master’s thesis, PTAF: Polygon Tessellation to Approximate Frame, was undertaken in close collaboration with the Living Architecture Systems Group. In the thesis, information from the Amatria test bed was combined with structural approximation to create a technique for parametric structural modeling to be used in conceptual architectural design. He hopes to promote interdisciplinary work both in industry and academia.
Farhan Monower is an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo, studying Mechatronics Engineering. He is set to graduate in the summer of 2021, and has completed multiple internships at companies such as Ford, DA-Integrated and Ritual Technologies Inc. He joined Philip Beesley/Living Architecture System Group as a Mechatronics Engineering intern, where he worked on electrical, controls systems and software design. He contributed to the design and development of the new-generation software system that runs on sculptures, with a focus on intrasculptural communication. He has also worked on the engineering team during installations of the Futurium Noosphere and Meander. Although his internship has ended, Farhan continues to work with the LASG as an Engineering Consultant. Currently he is working on the “Smart Actuation Interface”, part of the next generation of sculpture electronics.
Smart Actuation Interface Project:
Farhan is currently working on the “Smart Actuation Interface” (SAI), a device that is part of the new series of electronics for the Living Architecture Systems Group. The SAI is a device capable of actuating patterns on a single actuator in response to different types of input signals. This leads to a greater degree of individual control over elements in a sculpture setting. Its modular design means that it can perfectly integrate into existing centralized sculptural systems to act as a functional extension. The same design also permits a high degree of decentralization, opening up new potentials in sculptural and non-sculptural settings. This decentralized approach is further aided by its inherently extensible layout, allowing for chains of SAIs capable of interacting with each other to create intricate displays of actuation. These features are all being implemented with a greater focus on low level controls systems design and programming, allowing for highly specialized solutions.
Manuel Lukas joined the University of Innsbruck and the Anhalt University/Materiability Research Group in October 2020 as a doctoral student and is supervised by Prof. Claudia Pasquero and Prof. Dr. M. Kretzer. After an apprenticeship as an architectural draftsman and a bachelor’s degree in jazz and pop music, he commenced his studies in communication design at Mainz University of Applied Sciences. Throughout this period, the focus was on promoting communication by incorporating additional disciplines such as technology and human interaction into the design for prototype development. With the subsequent masters course at Anhalt University, the design approach has shifted towards adding living materials in the form of algae to the previous concept in order to expand the prototyping of products.
We are just beginning to realise the potential of manufacturing products with living organisms. Algae might be one of these secret weapons to combat the climate challenges we face. They grow many times faster than land plants, and a fraction of the area is needed to produce a corresponding amount of biomass for further fabrication. In addition, they grow on unproductive and non-agricultural land, so they do not compete with other crops. More specifically, they can be used to grow all kinds of structures, from foams that can replace plastics in shoes, to yarn and ink without chemicals, to bioplastics.
The research is intended to create the space for interdisciplinary cooperation, in which the creativity stimulated by scientific research is to be deepened and expanded for developing visions and case studies on environmentally friendly technologies. Through various experiments together with the knowledge of biologists, new ways of designing and producing objects with growing materials will be demonstrated. It can therefore also be seen as an opportunity to combine the design principles of value generation, growth and sustainability.
Andreas Bueckle is a PhD Candidate in Information Science at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at Indiana University Bloomington. His research interests include interactive information visualization and data visualization literacy in virtual reality (VR). Born and raised in Germany, he holds a B.A. in Media Studies from Eberhard Karls University in Tuebingen and an M.A. in Communications from Berlin University of the Arts. From early on, Andreas developed a deep interest in digital artifacts, most notably video and film. After working as a video journalist and cameraman on projects in Germany, France, India, and the US, he decided to switch to a more technical education and started to pursue his PhD in Information Science, working with Dr. Katy Borner. Andreas has also used his experience in 3D design and programming to develop visualization prototypes for LASG sculptures, specifically for Sentient Veil (2017) and Amatria (since 2018). Andreas has been a member of LASG since the inaugural symposium in 2016. Together with his advisor Dr. Katy Borner, he gave the keynote at the 2019 LASG Symposium at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada.
Mackenzie van Dam
Mackenzie is a M.Arch candidate at the University College London pursuing a research-based degree at the Bio-Integrated Design Lab. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Waterloo School of Architecture and has previously worked at the Living Architecture Systems with contributions to the designs of San Jose International Airport, Meander, Futurium Noosphere, and various competitions. Mackenzie’s research focuses on emergent form-finding, urban ecologies and bio-fabrication.
Mackenzie’s current thesis project at UCL is titled Immanent Metabolisms, an optimistic speculation on future architecture that attempts to shift design thinking to embody intentional ecology. The research rethinks architecture as a series of synthetic organs with active and engaged interiors, where curated material ecologies are designed to have productive roles within their surrounding ecosystem. Membranes are shaped by their environments, so as to ingest and resonate with environmental datasets and CFD analysis.
Current design research focuses on synthetic soils – an urban design project which nurtures many of the microbial specimens that would normally be found in subterranean forest floors (specifically cyanobacteria, earthworms and mycorrhizal fungi). Through the design of object ecologies which absorb and integrate, these micro-environments nurture keystone species, expanding their presence in cities while bridging the divide between the urban and the wild.
Lingheng Meng is a PhD student, co-supervised by Prof. Dana Kulić and Prof. Rob Gorbet, in the Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty at the University of Waterloo. He is passionate about applying Artificial Intelligence technology to Human-Robot Interaction. Specifically, Lingheng applied Deep Reinforcement Learning to the Aegis and Noosphere testbed at the Royal Ontario Museum with manually designed reward functions, measuring the engagement of visitors, based on infra-red sensors. The promising results showed that higher likeability could be achieved by the proposed approach relative to pre-scripted behavior. Encouraged by this work, Lingheng is now working on developing a Preference Learning algorithm to reduce the reliance of manually designed reward functions, wherein the reward function will be learned from preferences provided by experts or novice visitors. Lingheng has also worked on developing a Unity-based simulator to test code and potentially pre-train learning agents with the help of colleagues from Philip Beesley Studio Inc.
Learning to Engage With InteractiveSystem: Embedding Reinforcement Learning into the Physical World
This research focuses on applying Machine Learning to a novel interactive robot/system, i.e. Living Architecture System (LAS), to understand how to enable such a robot to generate engaging behavior automatically. The research is approached in a step-by-step manner where Reinforcement Learning is introduced to LAS, but with manually defined reward function based on low-cost sensors and engineered parameterized action space. Lingheng is now working on implementing a reward function through user-provided preferences, which presents the potential of eliminating the need for handcrafted reward functions. Due to the complexity of the unconstrained field study, other methods are being investigated to solve the Partial Observable and non-1st-order Markov Decision Process.
A recent graduate of the McEwen and Waterloo Schools of Architecture, Kevan is an architectural designer with a passion for Open Source tool making, interactive installations and small scale design build projects. Kevan has developed a software tool called MeasureIt-ARCH as an add-on for the Open Source 3D modeling tool Blender, which has been applied to the Living Architecture Systems Group’s testbed installations as a method of data mapping. MeasureIt-ARCH facilitates the creation of dimensioned and annotated technical drawings within Blender. Kevan has made further contributions to the LASG ranging from animation and rendering, video editing, and processing and coding, in addition to the fabrication of lightweight interactive installations.