Architect and designer Behnaz Farahi likes movement. Last year she created a 3D-printed shirt that responds to the way a person looks at it. Now, she's taken her responsive design ethos a bit higher — all the way to the ceiling to be exact. Farahi has installed a kinetic ceiling at the University of Southern California that reacts and moves in response to the people walking beneath it.
Farahi's permanent ceiling installation is called Aurora which, she says, is a nod to the Roman goddess of dawn. She told Gizmag that the project was a research collaboration on the future of the built environment between USC's Mobile Environment Media Lab and the SteelCase company.
The ceiling measures 15 x 15 feet (about 4.6 x 4.6 m) and has five floating motion disks covered in industrial felt. There are also four discs that don't move. The discs can move both up and down and can rotate in various directions, which means the ceiling can get quite expressive. The ceiling is activated through a connected Xbox Kinect motion-capture camera that translates movement into the actuation of the ceiling panels. In addition to having the discs respond to movement, the installation also has special lighting that turns on and off based on the path of a visitor to the room.
"This project aims to rethink the conventional rigid, solid architectural space through its combination of shape changing form, responsive lighting, adaptable spaces and interactive responses," says Farahi. "It is an attempt therefore to reimagine the possibilities of sensory spaces and robotic architecture."
If you're not going to be in southern California any time soon, this video will give you a little taste of what it's like to walk below a responsive ceiling.