2021 Digital Design Prize: Matthew Pugh’s “Animated Spaces, Creature-Like Objects: Animistic Interactions With Smart Buildings + IOT Objects”

Animated Spaces Kinematic Characters for Maison du Peuple The Work Home Pivot Interior Office Space

Animated Spaces: Kinematic Characters for Maison du Peuple, The Work-Home Pivot

by Matthew Pugh (MArch II '21) — Recipient of the Digital Design Prize



At the GSD, I’ve been engrossed in a strange new world of objects with digital organs, of spaces animated in response to their occupants’ daily lives, and of empathetic interactions between humans and the objects they live with. My submission showcases design work emphasizing digital animism on two parallel tracks: one interested in animated interactions within architectural spaces—bringing them to life with kinematic actuation—and the other with anthropomorphized interactions with our IOT-laden objects.

The first section, “Animated Spaces,” demonstrates animistic interactions with the smart building through my thesis project, “Working in the Fun Palace: Archigrammatic Interactions With the Smart Building.” As opposed to the screen-based approach of many smart building designers, the project pulls from the playful, robotic design thinking of the 1960s to imagine kinematic interfaces for our increasingly ubiquitous smart building systems.

I developed three unique digital design techniques that animate traditional architectural representation tools: First, the project uses Bongo, an inverse kinematics plug-in for Rhino, to design robotic partition systems that allow spaces to reprogram with technocratic efficiency, in tune with the rhythms of their occupants’ day-to-day lives. Second, I used animation software to create narrative representations of the experience of living in such a roboticized interior. Finally, I designed a tool using Processing and Grasshopper to create a large dataset of suggested program-paired layouts, with the intent that this dataset could be used to train a ML model to react to occupants and repartition the space on its own accord.

The second section, “Creature-Like Objects,” showcases a similar form of digitized animism, but at the scale of the devices in our increasingly IOT-laden homes. The projects explore new forms of anthropomorphic interactions between occupant and a smart hub that starts to take on creature-like autonomy.