san francisco
Visiting School

Biodynamic Structures 
California College of the Arts
12–21 July 2010

Biodynamics was the study of the force and energy of dynamic processes on living organisms. Through simple mechanisms embedded within the material logic of natural systems, specific stimuli can activate a particular response. This response occurs in carnivorous plants such as the Venus fly-trap, which uses turgor pressure to trap small insects in order to feed, and worms, which by contracting differentlyoriented muscles, achieve movement.

This ten-day intensive workshop, co-taught by the faculty of the mergent Technologies and Design Programme at the AA and the faculty of Architecture and MEDIAlab at California College of the Arts, explored active systems in nature, investigating biomimetic principles in order to analyse, design and fabricate a prototype that responds to environmental stimuli. Students worked in teams to research specific
biological systems, extracting logics of organisation, geometry, structure and mathematics. Advanced analysis tools were introduced in order to apply this information to the design of both passive and active responsive architectural systems. Investigation and application of robotics, sensors and actuators were employed for the activation of the material system investigation. Students had full access to the CCA’s Digital Fabrication Lab to test computational models.

At the conclusion of the workshop, each team prototyped an active system through parametric and associative modelling that performed structurally and successfully responded to at least one environmental stimulus.

The workshop was directed by Michael Weinstock; workshop tutors were Christina Doumpioti, Evan Greenberg and Konstantinos Karatzas (from the AA’s EmTech programme) and Jason K Johnson and Andrew Kudles Kudless (from the CCA).

Michael Weinstock is founder and Director of the EmTech MA programme at the AA and Master of Technical Studies. He was Academic Head of the AA from 2006–09 and is currently international advisor to the Delft School of Design PhD programme.