Philip Beesley will be presenting the public lecture:

‘Responsive Architectural Systems’

This will be held at *5pm* on Tuesday, 24th April 2012, Level 5, UTS School of Architecture (located directly behind the lifts), Faculty of DAB (Building 6), 702 – 730 Harris St, Broadway 2007

Philip Beesley will present new work from his Hylozoic Series, an evolving series of immersive environments developed within a Toronto-based collective of architects, engineers and scientists. What are the implications of a responsive architecture that might begin to ‘know’ and ‘care’ about us, that might start, in very primitive ways, to be alive? Drawing connections to Roman and Greek atomists and Romantic theory, Beesley will discuss how the behaviours of his installations challenge Humanist conceptions of environment and expansion of human domain. Upcoming installations at the 2012 Sydney Biennale and Wellington’s City Gallery demonstrate the technical progress and design methods currently being developed at his studio which further pursue integrated protocell chemistry, distributed kinetics and acoustics, and evolutionary control systems.

Details within these installations move progressively closer to definitions of life. Akin to the way a gauze veil might float around a person wearing it, meshworks float and move in response to their surroundings, flexing with the physical contact of viewers and local movements of air. Active mechanical responses operate in kinetic patterns that combine artificial intelligence and electrically driven mechanisms. These include arrayed microprocessors organized like an organic neural net, integrated with gridded physical components. The flexible interlinking components employ tightly-nested tessellation patterns and tartan-gridded wiring and structural fibre organizations in densely woven arrays.

Near-living chemical metabolisms are now being integrated into Beesley’s sculptural environments, supported by research contributed by artificial-life laboratories in the UK and Denmark. These fluid circulation systems operate by depositing delicate layers of material and by building up felted skins. These are currently housed within glass containers that run throughout the environments. With more development, fibres made from these chemical reactions can cover the meshworks and function as self-renewing architectural envelopes that can change and decay with the seasons.

Deliberately weak and fragile, the overall design of these environments encourages shared and shed forces. Like the intermeshed structures of a woven textile, the system gains resiliency and strength by densely combining many small elements. Temperature and environmental cycles work directly on these sensitive components. Human occupants complete the reciprocity of the system, offering their own behaviors, and accepting those of the environment. Ultimately, these works seek to establish a renewed, nurturing relationship between occupant and environment.


Philip Beesley is a professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo. He was educated in visual art at Queen’s University, in technology at Humber College, and in architecture at the University of Toronto. At Waterloo he serves as Director for the Integrated Group for Visualization, Design and Manufacturing. His Toronto-based practice PBAI is an interdisciplinary design firm that combines public buildings with exhibition design, stage and lighting projects. The studio’s methods incorporate industrial design, digital prototyping, and mechatronics engineering.

Beesley is engaged in the rapidly expanding technology of responsive architecture. He has authored and edited eight books and has been featured by Artificial Life (MIT), LEONARDO, WIRED, and in a series of TED talks. His work was selected to represent Canada at the 2010 Venice Biennale for Architecture, and he has been recognized by the Prix de Rome in Architecture, VIDA 11.0, FEIDAD, two Governor General’s Awards and as a Katerva finalist.


Note: UTS Architecture students interested in doing the winter elective should attend the information workshop prior to the lecture.