Saturday, December 01, 2007

vivisys chicago opening

Dates: 11.29.07 - 03.01.08
vivisys Installation + Exhibition
Jason Johnson and Nataly Gattegno + vivisys was produced in collaboration with the composer/sound artist/instrument designer Troy Rogers. Rogers is a PhD. candidate in UVa’s Music Department Composition and Computing Technologies Program VCCM. The Tektonics Design Group of Richmond collaborated on the project and sponsored all of the CNC fabrication work.

1835 South Halsted Street - Chicago Arts District

Vivisys Process Slideshow

Monday, November 05, 2007

Upcoming Chicago Installation and Exhibition

We are busy preparing for the December opening of our upcoming show in Chicago at the Extension Gallery for Architecture. From the press release: Future Cities Lab's new "Vivisystem" installation is an experimental double-curved lattice vault that plays host to an extraordinary cluster of rapidly prototyped aluminum and acrylic barnacles. Three-dimensional auroras of LEDS and electron emitting cold cathode tubes respond to interactions from their environment. Vivisystem synthesizes patterns of the organic and the manufactured into a new creative paradigm for energy, form and matter. Check back soon for images and updates!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Intriguing Motion, Modeling, Simulation Sofwares and More

SolidWorks [Link] Maya [Link]

PixLogic's ZBrush [Link] Draw and Sculpt with Digital stylus and Tablet
RealFlow FD Fluid Dynamics Simulation [Link]
Maxwell - the highest end Light Simulator + Particle Based Rendering [] See also Vray [Link]

Metropolis Magazine Sept 2007 Article

An article about the Robotic Ecologies Lab was featured in the September 2007 issue of Metropolis Magazine: "Shape Shifters: Architecture Schools Use Robotics to Design Buildings That React to the Environment" by Jim Rendon. Click on this [link] to read the full article. Quoting from the article: Seth Edwards, a graduate of the program who also took the class, sees robotics as a way to make buildings more energy efficient and to connect them to the natural world. One of Johnson’s prototypes, for example, is a building that can be linked to real-time weather updates that would alert it to high winds and other extreme conditions, allowing it to cut wind resistance by changing its shape or to open a rainwater collection system when a storm is passing over. “If kinetic buildings can sense something going on in the environment and respond to it, they are no longer stale objects,” Edwards says. “They become more like plants—they are actually more connected to nature.”

Sunday, October 07, 2007

... we'll need to rethink a few things ...

1. Connecting: ... we'll need to rethink a few things ... A link to Prof. Michael Wesch's Digital Ethnography videos: The Machine is Us/ing Us [Link] A Vision ... [Link]
2. Sensing: If things knew when they were being used -- wouldn't we save a whole lot of energy? The "Power of Dreams" commercials by Honda. Here is the YouTube [Link].
3. Constructing: An intriguing project from the ETH in Zürich that uses information extracted directly from a 3D (digital) model to guide a robotic arm as it constructs a (physical) algorithmically generated serpentine brick wall (move over TJ!). [Link]. From Monocle: "The Gantenbein Winery, in Fläsch, Switzerland, has been the prototype for an entirely new approach to bricklaying: using modified industrial robots. Traditionally, the promise of industrial robots has been that they would replace the human workforce. But these projects, led by the Architecture and Digital Fabrication laboratory at ETH Zürich, demonstrate a different result: architects are free to create designs and patterns of a precision that simply could not be achieved by hand."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Los Angeles 2106

By Xefirotarch and Imaginary Forces

Monday, August 27, 2007

RECIPROCITY: Energy + Form Interactions

This short film documents several experimental design prototypes produced by the Robotic Ecologies Seminar during the Spring 2007 semester at the University of Virginia. Concepts from these prototypes will continue to be developed during 2007-2008. A working 1/2 scale prototype for an experimental energy-harvesting robotic glass house is currently being developed. The project is scheduled to be released and exhibited in January 2008. Note: to download a higher-res (42 MB .wmv format) movie file click here: DOWNLOAD. You can also hover over the hyperlink + right-click and select "Save Target As" to save the movie. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

seven seven seven

After disappearing for many many weeks Nataly and I resurfaced on 07-07-07 in Athens, Greece --- and yes, the rumours are very true! We will see you back at UVA in September!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007

NIME NYC Conference June 2007

I will be attending the NIME 2007 International Conference and Workshops on New Interfaces for Musical Expression being held at NYU from June 6-10. It is sponsored by Harvestworks, LEMUR - League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots, NYU - Steinhardt, Tisch - ITP, Columbia Music Center, and Eyebeam. Troy Rogers, an amazing former Robotic Ecologies student and current PhD candidate from UVA's VCCM (Composition and Computing) will be presenting 2 projects in concerts at the Loewe Theater at NYU.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Robo Ecologies in The HOOK (and more)

The HOOK featured an article about our McGuffey Arts Center Opening in this week's issue. The 5-24-07 "On Architecture" column was written by Dave McNair. He writes: In this vision of the future, Johnson imagines, architecture will be in constant negotiation with the energy cycles of its surroundings and with the needs of its inhabitants. Likening such architecture to airplane design, Johnson says that some elements of the design will be "pre-shaped" and stationary, while other elements will be "active, dynamic and form-seeking."

Other recent commentary May/June 2007>>
ZDNet/Roland Piquepailles's Tech Trends:
Impact LAB:
Robo Ecologies Shape Themselves To Serve You:

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Here are some images from the release party on May 5th, '07. All robots (and their human counterparts) performed beautifully! We also had an amazing group of visitors assembled for the discussion. I will publish more images as soon as things calm down a bit. We will also release the documentary film in a few weeks. Check back soon!

Monday, April 30, 2007

!!! Release Party + Phase 04 Final Discussion

The release party and Phase 04 Final Discussion will take place on Saturday, May 5th from 7-9:00pm at the McGuffey Arts Center Downtown [Map] in the Studio 11 space. Our invited guests include Axel Killian from MIT, Kamin Whitehouse (sensor networks) from Computer Science, Matthew Burtner (composer and sound artist) from Composition and Computer Sciences, as well as guests from Robotics and the UVa School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture including William Morrish, Robin Dripps, Peter Waldman, Lucia Phinney and landscape architect Chris Fannin. SARC student Tamar Shafrir will also be debuting her latest Robotic Ecologies documentary film/robo-propaganda/sci-fi thriller. Safety goggles and ear protection will be provided!

View IMAGES of recent progress and reviews. Click the image above for an INVITE. Send questions to: jasonjohnson at

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Phase 03 Review Images

(Click on the image for a short GIF animation.) Thank-you to our recent reviewers Dean Abernathy from IATH and SARC, David Rifkind from SARC History, and UVa structural engineering professor Kirk Martini.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Phase 03 Presentations April 18

Introducing IRIS, TILT and RAVE: Phase 03 presentations will take place tonight at 7pm in the UVA SARC VisLab Ex. C. The team projects are: I.R.I.S. > Intelligent Responsive Integrated Space (formerly know as the ribbon group), T.I.L.T. > Transformative Intelligent Loop Tower (formerly know as the loop group), R.A.V.E. > Reactive Acoustic Variable Expansive Space (formerly know as the cell group). Safety goggles and ear protection will be provided.

The date for the final release discussion + party will be announced soon! Location: McGuffey Art Center, Downtown Charlottesville. Date, Time: TBA

Friday, March 30, 2007

* Phase 02 Presentations Mar 28

Reciprocity, Feedback, Material Intelligence (or even Personality?): Phase 02 Presentations took place on Wednesday night. Each team presented working robotic prototypes: The Cell Team (see movie above) presented an interactive scissor canopy (link), the Loop Team is developing a responsive heliotropic vertical assembly (link) and the Ribbon Team is working on a suspended intelligent material assembly (link). Luckily we still have 5 weeks to develop and refine the projects. [Special thanks to our "RoboPaparazzi" Tamar Shafrir, also thanks to our recent project reviewers: Profs. Nataly Gattegno, Jenny Lovell, Jeanna Ripple and Anselmo Canfora)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Future Cities Lab Updated

The Future Cities Lab web site has been updated. The full version will be released soon! Here is an an image of our Super Galazy project from 2006.

Crowd (Energy) Farms

MIT Graduate Students James Graham (a former UVA UGrad) and Thaddeus Jusczyk have been getting a lot of press for their Crowd Farms project (link). Quoting a MIT website: "And while the farm is an urban vision, the dynamo-floor principle can also be applied to capturing energy at places like rock concerts, too. "Greater movement of people could make the music louder," suggests Jusczyk." MIT Associate Professor J. Meejin Yoon has been serving as their advisor. We look forward to seeing this project develped further. Yusuke Obuchi's Wave Garden (his Princeton Thesis) also explored piezo-electric energy generation on a massive scale: "Wave Garden situates itself between the dynamic movement of nature and social forces, linking the ebb and flow of the ocean’s waves to the societal wave of fluctuating energy consumption." (link 1)(link 2)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

* Phase 01 Presentations Feb 28

Phase 01 presentations are scheduled for Feb 28 at 7pm. Don't forget your safety googles!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Make Controller Kits and MAX/MSP

Info for the Computation and Machine Groups:
I have two more Make Controller Kits for groups to begin testing. I will get them to Alex and Troy today. In the meantime – please make sure that you meet with your Ribbon, Loop or Cell team ASAP to get project ideas rolling. Here are some helpful links specifically for the Computation and Machine Groups:
MakingThings Website (LINK)
Making Things Forum (LINK)

Cycling 74 MAX/MSP/Jitter (LINK) :

MAX/MSP 30-day Trial Download (LINK)

MAX/MSP + Make Controller PATCHES (LINK)

cv.jit for MAX/MSP comp vision (LINK)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Good Books + Good Links

Several of you have asked me about good books to purchase - here are three great ones to get you started > My top choice is: Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers by O’Sullivan, Dan and Igoe, Tom. [Thompson Course Tech Press, 2004], also: Responsive Environments: Architecture, Art and Design by Lucy Bullvant [V+A Contemporary, 2006], The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature by Philip Ball, 2001. All of these are available first or second-hand through Amazon.

Also, here are some of the links to research offices that we have discussed recently in the seminar: The Living run by David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang, Tristan d'Estree Sterk of the The Office For Robotic Architectural Media & The Bureau For Responsive Architecture, Francois Roche of R&Sie and Biothing. Also Peter Yeadon's nanoarchitecture. Enjoy!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Self-Organized Phenomena

Check out this Java Applet Slime Mold Simulation and the StarLogo Simulations of Self-Organized Phenomena. Also, take a look at this "exploring emergent behaviours" interactive essay. The site also includes a great set of links to other Artificial Intelligence sources.

Epigenetic Landscapes

During our 1-24-07 session we discussed ideas related to Conrad Waddington's, "Epigenetic Landscapes" (pictured above). It is an important concept for us to explore. If you would like to read more please see Sanford Kwinter's "Landscapes of Change" essay in Assemblage 19, 1993. Quoting Kwinter: "Epigenetic landscape seen from below: The complex relief features of the epigenetic surface are themselves largely the expression of a prodigiously complex network of interactions underlying it. The guy-ropes are tethered not only to random points on the overhead surface, but to points on the other guy-ropes as well, and to pegs in the lower surface that themselves represent only semi-stabilized forms, thus multiplying exponentially the non-linearities flowing through the system. Not to diminish in importance either is the tension surface above as a distinct domain contributing its own forces to the field. No change in any single parameter can fail to be relayed throughout the system and to affect, in turn, conditions all across the event surface." (image credit: Conrad H. Waddington, Epigenetic Landscape, in Strategy of the Genes, 1957)

LINK > Sensors, Actuators, Software, Controllers

Jameco (mailorder, nice pics)
RadioShack (local)
Electronic Plus (in CA)
Trossen Robotics
Solarbotics (hobby thin film solar mods)
All Electronics

Max/MSP/Jitter (student packages available)
Processing (free download)

Make Controller Kit
BASIC Stamp by Parallax

All Electronics, MobileVideoZone, QualityMobileVideo, Care Electronics

NYU Tisch Physical Computing ITP

Mechanics, Sensors, Gears

Sensors Galore:
Making Gears:
Input Tech (sensors etc.):
Kinetic Design Group Matrix:

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Biodegradable Robotics

Bucky Fuller

“A self-balancing, 88-jointed adapter-base bi-ped: an electrochemical reduction plant with storage batteries of energy extracts for activating thousands of hydraulic pumps, 62,000 miles
[100,000 km] of capillaries, self-lubricating crushers and cranes: this whole mechanism guided from a turret containing stereoscopic rangefinders, olfactory and auditory sensors, air-conditioning inlet and exhaust, and a main fuel intake. The whole system needing no servicing for 70 years, if well managed!” (Buckminster Fuller)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Material (Intelligence) 02

Imagine how this material assembly of photo-voltaics and glass might change shape, orientation or density to optimize for solar exposure. Could it physically expand or contract based on real-time weather data or the predicted needs of its occupants? How might its skin respond (open, close, filter) to air quality depletion due to pollutants or ozone depletion? Could entire robotic assemblies be biodegradable? How might we best intermesh a robotic system of sensor arrays, actuators and micro-controllers into this model? How will the material logic of this assembly need to adapt? How will designers optimize (through scripting or progamming) these assemblies for use throughout a day, or throughout the course of a year? How will humans occupy and interact with this type of space? How do we embed elements of chance or the unexpected in these systems? (this prototype was built by Arch 552 student Paul Fromm) Goes Live

We have just published our new web site. It will be updated over the next few months. We will have links to our research, projects and academic work. Many thanks to our summer 2006 interns: Carrie Norman, Beth Haber and Thomas Kelly. Best, Jason and Nataly

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Laika the Space Pioneer

On November 3rd, 1957 a small female dog named “Laika” was launched into space aboard the Soviet Union’s “Sputnik II”. She was sealed in a small air-conditioned cabin that recorded cosmic radiation levels, her pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and electrocardiograms. Transmitters relayed this information to the Soviet ground control. Food and water were also provided for her one-way journey into orbit. Laika's capsule circled the Earth 2,570 times eventually burning up in the Earth's atmosphere on April 4th, 1958.

Arch 562 Student Contact Info

Paul Fromm - Karey Helms - Seth Edwards - Billy Glick - Katie Hilton - Howard Kim - Michael Bartosch - E. Scott Mitchell - Nora White - Ko Kuwabara - Greta Modesitt - Troy Rogers - Eyal Einik - Matthew Robisch - Jessica Terdeman - - Anthony Lawson

Tamar Shafrir - Alex Kong

Material (Intelligence) 01

As we discussed in last night's first 552 seminar session: How can we add some level of computational intelligence to elegant material assemblies such as these? (model by my Arch 401 student Karey Helms)

Welcome to Arch 562

The Arch 562 Robotic Ecologies seminar met for our introductory session on Wednesday night (1-17-07). We will be meeting every Wed. night from 7:00-10:00pm in Campbell Hall 108. Looking forward to an interesting and productive semester!

Here is the text from the intro of the syllabus:
This seminar is not just about architectural machines that move. It is about groups of architectural machines that move with intelligence. We will call these new organizations “Robotic Ecologies”: promiscuous new environments brought forth by the rapid release of advanced computation into the physical realm. The ideas we will explore in this seminar are an attempt to understand, to work with and against, these new technological (and some say spiritual) paradigms. Our explorations will be as much about exposing the dangers of our twenty-first century technological imperative as they are about celebrating their latent potential. We will no doubt be both terrified and thrilled by the rich, diverse and fascinating territories currently emerging in the arts and sciences.

The crossing of architecture and robotics represents one of the most promising and perhaps exigent technological intersections in recent times. Robots are sensing, thinking and moving entities. They are different from most machines in that they are capable of intelligent behavior – the capacity to learn, adapt and act on their senses and intuitions. Groups of robots, or robotic ecologies, are unique in their capacity to work as an organized system: rather than merely acting on their individual desires, robotic ecologies can work collectively in swarms or packs. Without much fanfare, an extraordinary new phylum of intelligent machines is coming to life in laboratories, studios and machine shops across the planet. Designers are building and programming kinematic self-replicating machines, modular self-assembling robots, fields of sun-tracking robotic sunflowers, and the like. As Marshall McLuhan famously said, “First we build the tools, and then they build us.” This seminar is about experimenting, exposing and exalting these new tools, processes and technologies. It is about exploring what happens when endless arrays of intelligent machines come together to form and define the world around us.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

LINK > Rhino Tutorials

Mostly for my new Arch 302 crew:
Basic tutorials are online at: [Remember to scroll down through the tutorials, there are some basic tutorials further down the page]. For video tutorials: [The tutorials are free but you need to log-in]. Rhino Wiki: [Search for a topic or just browse… tutorials, whitepapers, models, scripting, bios, etc, etc….. this is the place where you can find just about anything]. If you find better links please send them to me!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Are Robots Your Friends?

I saw this posted on a telephone pole in San Francisco. It must be some kind of robot cult or something?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Reyner Banham Loves LA

Architectural critic Reyner Banham explores Los Angeles in this 1972 BBC documentary.

LA Site Visit Arch 401

Jason's Arch 401 studio visited Los Angeles from Oct. 5th to the 10th. The studio was working on a hotel and leisurescape at LAX airport. This picture was taken by Jason (on the far left) at the Frank Gehry's Disney Hall. Other highlights included a visit to the Eames House, the Schindler House, Sci-Arc, UCLA, a meeting with Eric Owen Moss at his office, with Julie Eizenberg in her office, and THE highlight -- the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City.