Spatial Flipping

Arduino Makers - Spatial Flipping


What if the built environment around us - that acts as shelter and infrastructure, made of concrete and steel - became soft and malleable? How could the materials of our city influence or hinder our social interactions? Spatial Flipping is a prototype-driven exploration into how we interact with one another and our city by redesigning the role of the wall. This project reimagines walls as temporary interfaces that become receptive of our actions, potentially fostering new ways of experiencing and socializing.


What have you made?

Spatial Flipping is an 8’ tall partition wall comprised of vertical fabric curtains that respond to the presence of nearby people. This prototype is imagined as a portion of a continuous wall that would open up as people got close to it, revealing new sounds, smells, and sights.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

This project was created during a course at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA under the instruction of Associate Professor Jason Kelly Johnson (Future Cities Lab). Being in a major metropolitan area, our design team began with an interest in revealing the stuff in our city that we can’t see: underground trains, expected traffic jams, weather predictions, etc.

What is the original idea behind this project?

When you walk down a busy street you hear cars passing, ambulances blaring, and people shouting.
At the same time, somebody else is having a completely different experience in a nearby coffee shop, smelling roasted beans, hearing light chattering, and relaxing over some light Norah Jones. Despite these two environments being completely different, they occur simultaneously and are removed from each other by a simple wall. The objective was to transform the wall to reveal these polar environments to one another.

How does it work?

The wall is the interface. It becomes porous and invisible as people approach it, revealing a completely different environment behind it. A Kinect is used to track a person’s location and distance. An Arduino Uno is used to control a series of servo motors located on the top and bottom of the partition wall which rotate, causing the curtains to open. Each motor rotates a select angle, depending on the location of the person.

How long did it take to make it real?

The final version of the project was built quickly under the span of a week. However, trying to figure out factors such as the right scale, appropriate materials, and responsiveness took a couple months.

How did you build it?

Tools: Rhinoceros 3D, Grasshopper, Firefly, Arduino Uno, Kinect, Servo motors
Materials: Wood, fabric