The initial goal of the project ShapeShift was on the one hand working with material, experimenting with different types of construction and building a functional prototype in a 1:1 scale. On the other hand it was an innovative approach to the design studio installation, which we perceive as a living organism that should also respond to its surroundings.
After testing a number of materials and technical systems for air inflation, the most suitable solution was chosen. We built a structure composed of 296 fans 80x80mm large, installed in pairs in opposite directions, so that one is used for inflation and the other for deflation. Fans were connected together using 278 Merkur sticks and 556 nuts and bolts. We manufactured 148 square-shaped cushions 33x33mm large from 30m2 of soft PVC foil. Using a foil welder, straight and exact seams were created. Subsequently, the cushions were turned inside out to achieve a clean shape and attached to the fan structure. In order to be able to control inflation of the cushions, every four cushions were connected together as one independent channel switched by a power MOSFET. Over 120m of paired cable was needed. The whole structure consists of 5 panels, each of them controlled by a separate Arduino board. Each board is fitted with an Ethernet shield and networked with a computer, which is coordinating them using Processing. Ultrasonic distance sensors are used to mediate information about presence of visitors to the control program, which responds to these data by modifying immediate cushion inflations.
The ShapeShift is an experiment manifesting that architecture is no longer needed to be considered static only, but it can change, move and interact with its environment.