Architecture, Building and Planning - Research Publications

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    Bio-Digital Manufacturing of Tree Hollows
    Roudavski, S ; Parker, D (MUSE – Science Museum of Trento, 2022)
    This living-laboratory exhibit tests the use of experimental materials for artificial tree-hollows. Globally, thousands of bird and mammal species depend on tree hollows for shelter and reproduction. Most of these animals cannot build their own homes. Instead, they rely on cavities made by woodpeckers, termites, or decay-causing organisms. These critical habitat-structures are in short supply and take decades or even centuries to develop. Human-made or ‘artificial’ hollows, such as nest boxes, can support some species. However, the shapes, materials, microbial life, and microclimates of nest boxes significantly differ from natural hollows. Timber boxes often break after a few years while plastic structures last longer but produce persistent waste. Extreme temperature fluctuations inside nest boxes can dehydrate and overheat inhabitants. Developing sustainable designs that perform as components of ecosystems is a difficult challenge that necessitates better understandings of hollows across their entire lifecycles. In response, ecologists from MUSE and collaborators from Deep Design Lab at the University of Melbourne are working together to develop and test artificial hollows made of novel materials. Using MUSE’s digital fabrication lab, FabLab, the researchers are manufacturing high-tech hollows using tools like laser-cutting, 3D printing, and augmented-reality assembly guides on smartphones. The aim is to develop shapes, materials, and manufacturing approaches that are sustainable, feasible to construct, and supportive of target species and other organisms. This exhibit is evaluating the performances of digitally designed hollows made from soil, hempcrete, mycelium, plywood, and plastic. The design of each hollow specifically targets the Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus), a cold-adapted species that resides in the spruce and fir forests of Europe and North America. Sadly, boreal owls could lose 65% of their habitat in the Italian Alps by 2050 due to climate change. In 2018, Storm Vaia toppled many of the hollow-bearing trees that boreal owls rely on for nesting. To understand how digitally designed hollows compare to the usual nesting sites of boreal owls, this living-laboratory experiment includes a tree hollow salvaged after the storm. Sensors within each hollow record the internal microclimates. Feedback from this experiment will inform the development of artificial hollows to be installed in the forests of Trentino. This project shows what is possible when international and interdisciplinary teams come together to address complex challenges and sets out to benefit ecosystems at diverse sites and scales.
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    The Last of Their Kind
    Roudavski, S ; Rutten, J ; Holland, A (The Special Interest Group in Computer Graphis (SIGGRAPH), Digital Arts Community (DAC) exhibition The Earth, Our Home: Art, Technology and Critical Action, online, opened January 28, 2022, 2022)
    The Last of Their Kind is an outcome of a research program that seeks to open possibilities for participatory designing that involves nonhuman lifeforms. This exhibit gives detail to intertwined and mesmerizingly rich stories of interspecies communities. To provide a brighter contrast with familiar human-centred narratives we focus on plant lives. Humans often study plants as resources. Instead, we seek to tell stories about the self-directed lives of plants and relevant ethical questions. The Last of Their Kind focuses on individuals, species and communities facing extinction. Some call these beings ‘endlings’. How should humans study and preserve stories of beings that go away, often forever? Nobody has a complete answer, but we can try to bear witness, record as a lesson, sometimes help. We focus on three different characters. One story follows a group of elders. Another looks at the last representatives of a species. And the last considers a formerly dominant but disappearing community. Engaging with these beings, we use lasers, magnetic fields, and particle accelerators to generate detailed data representations of plant worlds. Applying analytical tools and artificial intelligence to this data, we seek to capture the richness and nuance of behaviours, capabilities and preferences that characterise nonhuman lives. Interspecies stories are hard to narrate. Their characters have evolutionary backgrounds, life histories, capabilities and scales that are not intuitive to humans. Our imaging technologies span from kilometres to microns and expose histories and futures from new perspectives: high above a rainforest, deep within a tree trunk, or only visible in the infrared. These stories attempt to create a narrative world that can support multiple perspectives, including nonhuman. We believe such spaces are a foundation for fairer and more hopeful interspecies futures. Biographies The authorship of this exhibit belongs to Deep Design Lab, a creative collective. The project team includes: Stanislav Roudavski, at the University of Melbourne, researches designs for animals, plants, rivers, and rocks as well as humans. His experiments contribute to knowledge by using scientific evidence and advanced technologies in concert with cultural, political, and historical analyses. Alexander Holland, at the University of Melbourne, investigates the digital and physical characteristics and design opportunities of past and future environments. His experiments expand the reach of participatory design to include nonhuman as well as human inhabitants. Julian Rutten, at Swinburne University of Technology, studies the intersections of culture, nature, and technology. His research focuses on remote sensing and three-dimensional imaging techniques that aim to support more-than-human habitats. Together, the team has extensive design, art and architecture experience with many international exhibitions and publications to their credit. Acknowledgements Biologists: Rebecca Miller, Royal Botanic Gardens Darren Le Roux, Australian Capital Territory Parks and Conservation Service Phil Gibbons, Australian National University Yoav Daniel Bar-Ness, Tasmanian Geographic Imaging specialists: Jay Black, the University of Melbourne Anton Maksimenko, the Australian Synchrotron Image Credits The image of beetle on spathe is from Sayers, T., Steinbauer, M., Farnier, K., & Miller, R. (2020). Dung Mimicry in Typhonium (Araceae): Explaining Floral Trait and Pollinator Divergence in a Widespread Species Complex and a Rare Sister Species. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 193, 375–401. All other images are by the authors.
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    Intelligent Lighting Networks
    Roudavski, S ; Yu, T (Future Implied Media Architecture Biennale, event by Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht University, and others. 24 June 2 July 2021, 2021)
    This project seeks to address detrimental effects of the environmental light pollution by developing intelligent lighting networks that can support nonhuman as well as human needs. The significance of this research is clear from one dramatic contradiction. On one hand, all life on the Earth has evolved to depend on darkness. Ecological evidence shows that harmful effects of light pollution are pervasive and affect all organisms, including humans. On the other hand, human societies crave more light to maximise economic activities. As a result, artificial sources of light at night are increasing by 6% every year. Codes and standards of current lighting design often fail to acknowledge the environmental impact as evident, for example, in the Australian lighting standards and local-council lighting strategies. Existing design trends do not acknowledge the needs of nonhumans or provide systems that can flexibly adapt to their behaviours. Computational analysis, simulation and interactive visualisation provide opportunities to reassess such approaches. We use these tools to ask how design can address the damaging misalignment of nonhuman needs and human preferences for light. In response, our project claims that computational analysis, simulation, and immersive digital media can combine human and nonhuman input to support better design. To test this proposition, this study 1) assesses scientific evidence on the impact of light; 2) reviews current and emerging lighting designs; 3) develops a conceptual framework for more-than-human design in application to lighting; and 4) tests this framework in a concrete design experiment that considers an intelligent lighting network for characteristic urban sites. Our results demonstrate that data-driven simulations, immersive interactive visualisations, and persistent multi-modal input systems can extend design imagination.
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    Forms of Sentience and Future Places
    Brock, D ; Roudavski, S (Urban Assemblage: The City as Architecture, Media, AI and Big Data, event by Architecture, Media, Politics, Society (APMS), University of Hertfordshire, Intellect Press and Parade. 28-30 June 2021, 2021)
    Visions of future cities differ greatly. Techno-optimists imagine greater comfort, better health, and longer lives. By contrast environmentalists foresee extinctions and the twilight of consumer civilisations. Whatever the outcome, the technological acceleration will continue to affect the lives of city dwellers, human and nonhuman. This situation calls for further research into capabilities for just resilience in the context of inclusive, more-than-human communities. The approach of this project is to review this challenge through the lens of sentience. Sentience is a contested concept that integrates ecological and technical concerns. Thus, its exploration can challenge existing anthropocentric frameworks and propose novel research directions. Existing discourse on sentience in humanities, engineering, and biological sciences is extensive but disjointed. This disunity results in the exclusion and disregard of sentient agents, existing and emerging. This is particularly apparent in the damaging anthropocentric bias of current design and engineering. In response, this project considers the roles sentience in future cities. It hypothesises that an understanding of sentience as a more-than-human, relational, and distributed phenomenon can promote interspecies justice. To test this hypothesis, we begin with an outline of biological sentience in humans, animals, and other lifeforms. We then compare biological sentience with forms technological sentience in robots and intelligent devices. The last steps of our analysis explore how these forms of sentience can combine in the context of smart cities and discuss implications for human and nonhuman stakeholders. Using project examples, we compare existing conditions, within emerging trends, and long-term forecasts. The outcomes of this review emphasise the importance of ecocentric foundation for further research into nonhuman lives and interspecies communities. Further study of interspecies communities is important as a source of learning about nonhuman subjectivity, cognition, sentience, intelligence, and knowledge that will be crucially important as contributions to the necessary design of future cities.