en Vie / Alive

en Vie / Alive, EDF Foundation, Paris, France; curated by Carole Collet

Sabin Design Lab, Cornell University / eSkin / 2013

Design: Jenny E. Sabin, Andrew Lucia, Giffen Ott, Simin Wang

Scientists and Engineers: Shu Yang, Dengteng Ge, Elaine Lee (material science), Jan Van der Spiegel & Nader Engheta, Milin Zhang (electrical and systems engineering), University of Pennsylvania

How might architecture respond to issues of ecology and sustainability whereby buildings behave more like organisms in their built environments? The work presented here titled, eSkin, is one subset of ongoing trans-disciplinary research spanning across the fields of cell biology, materials science, electrical and systems engineering, and architecture. The goal of the eSkin project is to explore materiality from nano to macroscales based upon understanding of nonlinear, dynamic human cell behaviors on geometrically defined substrates. To achieve this, human smooth muscle cells are plated on polymer substrates at a micro-scale. Sensors and imagers are then being designed and engineered to capture material and environmental transformations based on manipulations made by the cells, such as changes in color, transparency and pattern. Through the eSkin project, insights as to how cells can modify their immediate extracellular microenvironment with minimal energy and maximal effect are being investigated and applied to the design and engineering of highly aesthetic, passive materials, and sensors and imagers that will be integrated into responsive building skins at the architectural scale.

This interactive simulation features a built in camera that detects your motion through a custom script. By waving your hand in front of the screen–to the left, right or center—the simulated eSkin adjusts in real time. The simulation incorporates real optical data-in the form of color and geometric transformation-from micro scale material substrates to speculate upon how these nano to micro scale material effects and related geometries may be applied at the architectural scale. Here, visitors are able to interact with the actual material effects of eSkin in real time and in a scaled way, thus fusing micro scale material behavior with human behavior.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation EFRI SEED and is jointly housed at the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University.

Laser-cut acrylic, custom software, small camera, embedded LCD screen, MAC mini; Simulation of eSkin building component in real time