Responsive Environments: CITY eMOTION

This course looks into the future of the built environment from a technologically augmented point of view, with a strong focus on sustainability and longevity of responsive spaces and artifacts. Putting the human being at the center and forefront, from the micro (bodily sensors, smart product design) to the macro (augmented buildings, information infrastructures, communication frameworks), this course will examine new models, technologies, and techniques for the design of innovative architectural spaces, systems, interfaces, and responsive environments.

The research pursued by the course will investigate the challenges related to the integration of digital technologies in cities, exploring both opportunities and repercussions on the spatial structure of the built environment as well as on the experience of citizens in both physical and virtual realms. Key research questions addressed by the course include: 1. What is the impact of digital technology on the experience of the built environment? 2. What are the transformations that the emerging spatial intelligence of cities will foster? 3. How can responsive environments facilitate the creation of new forms of relationships with the city? 4. How can the functioning mechanisms and dynamics of existing urban contexts promptly respond to the user needs and contextual occurrences?

With a focus on the City of Bergamo (Italy), the course ultimately aims to investigate the complex interplay of people’s behaviors and new technologies in responsive built environments, opening up unexpected research and design opportunities as well as generating impulses and solutions for innovative urban development at different scales. In that sense, Bergamo ? a typical mid-size European city ? offers an ideal case study for prototypical interventions that can be possibly replicated in other urban contexts.

The course will be co-taught with REAL lab Research Associate Stefano Andreani and will host guests from different fields. The first part of the course leading to the final project will constitute of readings and discussions, background research, site analysis, and technology documentation. Hands-on workshops will help students conceive and design working prototypes and speculative proposals of technologically driven and augmented environments. The course places an important emphasis on what makes the design of these responsive environments perceptually valid, technically feasible and practical. In addition to the concept of responsive environments, research topics including techniques of digital/physical inversion, body-centric interaction, and technological longevity will drive the class discussions. The final project will be a speculative design intervention, supported by prototypes and installations, envisaging potential future scenarios for the city of Bergamo.

Enrollment is limited to 20 and a lottery will be held to determine the12 students who will travel to Bergamo, Italy in February.  Only the 12 students selected in this lottery will be able to travel. These students will be term billed $300, and are responsible for the costs of meals and incidentals, including for obtaining necessary visas. One set itinerary is made for the trip; students who wish to change the itinerary may directly contact the travel agent and pay for any change fees. Students will need to sign a travel waiver in the Department of Architecture and register their trip with Harvard Travel Assist. Students enrolled in other traveling studios or courses cannot take travel to Italy.