Flower Carpet

Arduino makers project - Flower Carpet


Flower Carpet viz. Pookalam, is a welcome ritual from India. It’s an interactive carpet made of fresh flowers. The flower carpet changes pattern when it senses arrival of a guest and when the guest moves away from the carpet to make them absorb in the beauty of flowers and clear the mind from preoccupied thoughts.

The project was part of the Housewarming exhibition by Fabrica for Airbnb, recently presented at the 2015 Milan Furniture Fair.


What have you made?

I have reinterpreted the Indian tradition of welcoming guest with flower rangolis. (Editor’s Note: a Rangoli is a typical Indian form of folk’s art:beautiful patterns are created using colored rice, dry flowers, colored sand, or flower petals on the floor of the living room or of the courtyard, for special guests or during celebrations. It’s meant as a sacred welcome area for guests. The designs may vary from geometric to flower shapes).
It’s a spread of fresh flowers on a raised surface composing a specific design. The pattern of the flower-spread is such that when certain parts of the carpet rotate, they result in different combinations of patterns.
The flower carpet is ideal until it detects a guest arriving and starts morphing into different patterns. I designed changing patterns as it makes the viewer absorb more into the carpet. The intention is that of sort of hypnotizing the guest to make them forget all of the things that may upset them in the external world, welcoming them in a beautiful setting to distract them from everyday trouble.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

The concept is based on the idea of being mindful while arriving to a destination.
The status of being present (virtually and physically) has changed over the time. I thought here was an opportunity to get inspired by the simple act of arriving to a destination (someone’s home), as a guest.

When coming from outside, our mind is preoccupied with different thoughts and is in a process of thinking. As soon as we see something strikingly beautiful and visually strong, we stop thinking for that moment and are just looking. This puts us in the present moment and thinking of nothingness. So before entering the house, the guest is a bit more grounded and in the present moment than they were earlier.

What is the original idea behind this project?

I studied the ancient Indian tradition thoroughly, as it is still practiced in all the regions. The host collects local flowers and herbs and makes a flower rangoli / carpet art just outside the entrance of the house. The flower carpet is not to be walked on but to look at. The carpet is to make guest feel warm and welcoming. At the end of the day, the dried flowers and herbs are collected to make tea or herb (e.g. Jasmine tea, Basil tea, Rose petal jam, etc.) Hence everything is reused.

The original idea is rooted deep in the Indian culture to which I belong.

How does it work?

As soon as the proximity sensor detects a person arriving, it triggers the servos to rotate into predefined combinations of positions, creating different patterns. The speed (rotation per minute), direction (left to right or vice versa) and angle (0 to 180 degree) of the rotation give the possibility of a number of different final designs when the servos stop rotating.

The pattern is designed in a way that it could create multiple combinations.
Studying and creating various moving optical illusions derived the pattern. At a later stage, I did much more interaction to put the moving pattern into a static optical illusion. This led me to the final design, which justifies the movement in the carpet visually.

How long did it take to make it real?

It took approximately 2 months to design the entire welcome ritual, form the concept to the design and testing, to the final product.

Most of the time was spent in designing the right pattern as the pattern had to be justified keeping the space, the movement, the colour pallet and the Indian and optical illusion patterns in mind.

As the Arduino Uno board is compatible with all the sensors and motors I was using, the hardware was quickly prepared. The code stitched the positioning of servo angles.
Here I was using 180 degree servos, and I soon realised that they are not very smooth when it comes to aligning at sharp 0 or 180 angle. Being naïve to coding, I was taking a while to fix this. Angelo Semeraro and Dawid Górny, from Fabrica Interaction Area, helped me with the smooth transition of movement from maximum to minimum.

How did you build it?

1. The structure was laid on the floor and the pattern was drawn on the surface excluding the inner moving discs.
2. The servomotors were placed in the cavity of the structure with Arduino Uno and the sensors on the edge.
3. The inner moving discs were then placed on the top of the servos, maintaining the centre, and then turned to align to the position 0 with the help of Arduino.
4. The drawing of the pattern was then completed as the structure with moving disc was at 0 position.
5. The flowers were laid on the structure into two layers.
6. The code was uploaded on the Arduino board and the speed and alignment of every possibile combination was tested.

Metal base structure, Flower petals, 4 Servomotors (180 degree), 2 PIR sensor, an Arduino Uno and external Power supply.

Things in Handy:
Solder end connector pins and basic connectors.