Commissioned for the Art Center presentation of “Open House,” this site-specific installation operates both as a complex light pattern that greets visitors and as an environment-sensing device.
During the day, the “swarm” of green forms, both biomorphic and geometric, accentuates the South Campus’s main entry. At twilight, the swarm comes to life, telling visitors and passersby about the current air quality around the building. Electronic sensors perceive air contaminants – such as tobacco, benzene, carbon monoxide, even perfume – and separately inform the outside and inside swarms, which set off signals. These signals are interpreted as changes to the natural rhythm that the network has established based on the number and distribution of nodes connected to the cable net. Flashing cells on the exterior façade indicate air quality inside the building. Conversely, pulsating effects in the interior entry inform visitors about the outside air quality. The flashing lights become indicators of the environment, like dramatic clouds at sunset that forewarn of storms at night.
HouseSwarming is an example of how architects and designers are using technology that mimics biological systems. These patterns would likely look like those structures found in nature, such as the patterns made by schools of fish, flocks of birds and swarms of locusts. Used in the home, this type of sensor-node technology could enable us to extend our nervous system into the environment and alter our sense of boundaries.