Archive for March, 2011

” …it is the possibility of shifting our attention from the object to the experience of the object and in so doing reconceptualizing architectural design as the design of architectural experiences.”

Dr. Julio Bermudez in Visual Architectural Experiences

Dr. Bermudez makes a strong case for digital, virtual environments as a tool to enable designers to design architectural experiences instead of architectural objects. He argued, in 1994, that traditional representation methods of architecture fail to adequately represent temporal phenomena. Time, in particular, has been difficult to represent.

“… there remains the fact that the nature of our media and techniques of representation have generated and supported a structural weakness in how we deal with the phenomenology of architectural orders”

Dr. Julio Bermudez in Visual Architectural Experiences

He argued for the use of immersive, 3D, digital environments as a tool to design experiences. Seventeen years later, there are a plethora of 3D virtual reality tools available to designers. I am in no way an expert on 3D virtual reality environments. However, I have used one laboratory. The tool helped me experience my design with my body. Still, I was viewing and experiencing the design within the constraints of the environment. I wore a head band that placed two screens in front of my eyes. Once my eyes adjusted to the resolution of the screen I could trick my brain into seeing beyond them as just two screens. I was limited by the room as to where I could walk. The lab worked well, but I was experiencing my design through the filter of the lab.

Ephemeral models allow us to quickly and easily model experiences in real time, with real occupants under controlled circumstances. The blended photograph is the visual remnant of the experience of ephemeral modeling.

I’ve summarized my current thoughts on the history of similar photographic methods by Etienne-Jules Marey, Eadweard Muybridge, László Moholy-Nagy and Annie Halliday. Included are ephemeral models from the most recent modeling session with Elizabeth Turner and some tests of how to transform this information further.

Process, research and tests


20110327_libraryWallPinch by Laurie McGinley

20110327_libraryWallPinch, originally uploaded by Laurie McGinley.

Elizabeth Turner is a classmate who is working with Great River School for her Master Final Project (MFP). She is also a friend who sits right next to me in studio. On Friday morning we were talking about our projects and other exciting topics when she said, “I want to model my design with your camera.”

Elizabeth recruited four students and our MFP coordinater, Gayla Lindt, to help us model her project last night. You may view more photos from this session on Flickr.

Blended image of an ephemeral model made with a 18’x5′ piece of white ripstop nylon, a Lowell Omni studio light, a two tube fluorescent shop light and eight people. Model designed by Elizabeth for her Master Final Project work at Great River School.

Many thanks to Gayla, Elizabeth, Abby and four amazing students for helping make this model. Thanks to Amber for the use of the fabric.

ECO pavilion by MMX

“ECO experimental museum organizes an annual contest to create a temporary pavilion in the principal patio of the building designed by artist Matthias Goeritz in 1953. This year MMX won the contest for the ECO pavilion.”

ECO pavilion by MMX

ECO pavilion by MMX

“The design intent was to remove oneself from the idea of the object. From our point of view the intention should be a system; a field that, continuing and complementing the original effects of the building, effectively evidences and transforms the diverse attributes of the space. The intervention system should create new planes, new volumes, new escapes and new ambiguities and, as a result of these elements, generate a distinct space however accessible, flexible and useful.”

Via: Plataforma Arquitectura

Charles C. Benton’s kite photography

“Just by displacing ourselves we then get an entirely new perspective on things that are familiar and it reveals a lot.”

Charles C. Benton, Professor of Architecture, UC Berkeley
Via: Makezine and Jon Rozenbergs

ephemeral model

Elizabeth Turner just coined the term ephemeral models. An ephemeral model is a short lived model that can only be seen in its entirety through blended photography.

from camera to model

I made models out of illuminated materials, time and blended photography. I have been making them as a test of a photographic tool I made to understand an architectural space. I thought of the idea for this tool last summer but I didn’t know how to build it. I spoke about it with my dad and he built it. None of this would have been possible without his help. The tool consists of a digital camera with a fisheye lens, a motion sensor and an Arduino.

Nikon D200 motion lapse camera set up

camera set up

The camera is set to respond to motion. If the sensor detects motion it signals the Arduino to run the following program:


  1. pause one second
  2. trigger the shutter and make one photograph
  3. pause three seconds
  4. trigger the shutter and make one photograph
  5. pause three seconds
  6. trigger the shutter and make one photograph
  7. pause three seconds
  8. trigger the shutter and make one photograph
  9. pause three seconds
  10. trigger the shutter and make one photograph

If the sensor still senses motion the program is repeated. If not, the camera stops taking photographs. The camera has been running since November 21, 2010. Between then and March 1, 2011 the camera was only triggered between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. The sensor was located on a column about 25 feet from the camera. On March 1, 2011 I removed that restriction and moved the sensor closer to the camera.

The result of this experiment has been over 100,000 photographs of the same view. Until March 13, 2011 I was observing activity the camera captured. I used the auto blend function in Adobe Photoshop to merge multiple photographs together. The process of finding interesting packets of photographs, loading them into layers in Photoshop and auto blending them resulted in blends of activity.

On March 23, 2011 I decided to begin using light and time to explore ideas of space and transparency. The camera is in shutter speed priority mode and it is set to 1/15th of a second. That means that after dark the photographs are almost completely black. If there is a light on in the space below the camera it has a strong contrast with the surrounding area. I began by collecting light tools and moving them around the space. Knowing that I would blend the photographs together later helped me understand how to make models with simple illuminated materials and time.

individual frames

individual frames

blended photograph

blended photograph

inverted, blended model

inverted, blended model


20110322_threePointFlex by Laurie McGinley

20110322_threePointFlex, originally uploaded by Laurie McGinley.

Blended image of a model made with a 18’x5′ piece of white ripstop nylon, a Lowell Omni studio light, a two tube fluorescent shop light and four people.

This image fascinates me. I can’t exactly explain why the right half of the frame is red. My best guess is that it is an artifact of the Photoshop script that blends the photos together. The light source for this series is on the right side and was very bright. Maybe the contrast in the intensity of light between the two halves of the frame contributed to the red color.

Many thanks to Amber, Dan and Erin for helping me make this model.

Inverted, blended image of a model made with a 18’x5′ piece of white ripstop nylon, a Lowell Omni studio light, a two tube fluorescent shop light and four people.

I inverted this image after I blended it. The result of inverting a photograph made after dark in Rapson Hall courtyard is that the illuminated materials, the fabric in this case, appear as solid, substantial materials. It is possible to create and experience a digital model with little more than a light and any material.

This photograph reminds me of Kenn Kotara’s screen sculptures.

Many thanks to Amber, Dan and Erin for helping me make this model.


20110322_fabricSquare by Laurie McGinley

20110322_fabricSquare, originally uploaded by Laurie McGinley.

Blended image of a model made with a 18’x5′ piece of white ripstop nylon, a Lowell Omni studio light, a two tube fluorescent shop light, four people and time.

My camera is set up in a way that photos made in Rapson Hall courtyard after sundown look very dark. As a result, anything that is illuminated appears very clearly in the photographs. The camera is programmed to make a frame every three seconds and each exposure lasts a mere 1/15th of a second.

This cadence allowed us to place the fabric, light it and move it before the next frame was made. I just edited these individual frames into blended photos. The blended result of placing the illuminated material all over the courtyard is a model.

Many thanks to Amber, Dan and Erin for helping me make this model.

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