- Digital Pavilion, ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] & Hyperbody, 2006
- Digital Pavilion
- Seoul, Korea
- Project team ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd]
- Ilona Lénárd, Kas Oosterhuis, Marthijn Pool, Jan Gasparik, Matthijs Frederiks, Petr Vokal, Tim McGinley, Dieter Vandoren
- Project team Hyperbody
- Chris Kievid, Christian Friedrich
Digital Pavilion, intelligent architecture
Christian Friedrich and Chris Kievid
In 2006, architectural office ONL was invited to propose an interior design for a Digital Pavilion, located in the Digital Media City in the Sangam-dong district of Seoul. The Digital Pavilion would be Korea’s largest complex where visitors can experience the world of ubiquitous computing and glimpse the future vision of Korea as an IT powerhouse, as well as view cutting-edge products of innovative IT companies. The proposal of ONL arose as an ambitious and groundbreaking initiative to mix real-life, augmented reality and online experience in unprecedented ways in a state-of-the art architectural design. The scenario is extrapolated from technology employed by ONL and developed by its research partner, Hyperbody at Delft University of Technology. The Digital Pavilion, a building as living installation, is designed to provide a great opportunity for the South-Korean high-tech industry to showcase its global significance.
The Digital Pavilion goes beyond the common conception of ‘intelligent environments’, which often merely consist of a distribution of artefacts with intelligent behaviour. In the Digital Pavilion project, these artefacts are bound by unifying principles and converge towards a new kind of architecture, which contains integrated intelligent technologies in its conception, construction, maintenance and interactive engagement with its occupants.
The geometry of the Digital Pavilion is based on the same, unifying principles on each of its three levels, principles which support the immediate generation of structure and relationships from point-clouds informed by the stakeholders and users (Figure 1). This feature is used in the collaborative investigation for a coherent design on the exhibition level, with the spatial structure acting as mediator between the various exhibitors and their individual demands, and on the interactive levels as means of assigning dynamic relationships in a topologically adaptive space.
The parametric morphology of the pavilion interior is derived from a 3D Voronoi Diagram algorithm. The definition of the Voronoi Diagram is: ‘the partitioning of a plane with n points into convex polygons such that each polygon contains exactly one generating point and every point in a given polygon is closer to its generating point than to any other’. The 3D Voronoi principle is translated in our design into the effective cell-like 3D spatial division. The basic Voronoi cell structure is endless. This endless structure is intersected with the Digital Pavilion volume and the result is materialized as the interior spatial structure. This is a parametric system. By varying the density and position of the Voronoi generating points, variations of the resulting spatial division are achieved.
Voronoi Diagrams can only be constructed algorithmically. This task would take too long to do by hand and the outcome can hardly be imagined even with a few points. Through computational geometry, the diagrams can be generated with precision, speed and robustness. When the speed of the calculation allows for real-time interaction with the point cloud and the resulting spatial diagrams, the solution space of the volumetric plan can be explored in a 'browsing' manner. Whereas the traditional architect’s approach is to fit demands into a chosen structure, the Digital Pavilion project implements a behavioural design technique that offers a tool for finding structures and generating geometries based on volumetric and behavioural demands. This SmartVolumes  technique supports designers in the exploration of the complexity of geometries based on Voronoi Diagrams (Figure 2). In a 3D Voronoi Diagram the location of points, the volumes of cells, the facets of cell surfaces, the edges of these facets and the endpoints of these edges are all implicitly related to each other. Each change to the generative point cloud simultaneously affects structure, building physics, details, aesthetics and other performances of the design. These complex interrelations demand that a tool efficiently explore possible solution spaces. SmartVolumes is intended to meet these demands. In the SmartVolumes techniques, geometric structure is seen as property of spatial constellations of point clouds, without the need to preconceptualize geometry. It lets structure be the immediate outcome of performative behaviours. It is based on real-time interaction between the set of weighted points, properties of its Voronoi Diagram, a user and possible parametric relationships the users have set.
For the Digital Pavilion project, the SmartVolumes modeller was modified to directly connect a spatial layout of an exhibition space to the partitioning and detailing of the space. The application allows exhibitors to specify their demands in area and location, and to collaboratively explore spatial layout that would meet their demands.
In the generation of the Voronoi solution, the 3D volumes of the cells are generated for each of the Voronoi generating points, together with the facets that lie between two cells and edges of the facets. Voronoi cells belonging to a group of points forming a path can be opened to each other, making a passage, and the cells of one exhibition stand can be combined to form a greater, more complex volume. The cell structure can be materialized in several ways depending on the situation. Once the complete structure is generated the construction elements can be written to CAD/CAM files and tables for cost calculation, construction evaluation, production planning and automated fabrication.
The Digital Pavilion is a complex adaptive robotic system of interacting installations. Navigating the interior feels like walking in the interior of a living installation. You are inside technology: ubiquitous computing at its full potential. Installations interact with the public, but also with other installations. The output of one installation provides relevant data, which is used as input for other installations. The visitors are individually identified using RFID tracking and they build up their unique profiles while navigating through the floors of the pavilion with the interactive and interacting installations. Each visit will be a unique experience, the installation never repeats its exact shape and content, always being adjusted in real-time by the movements of the public and the streaming content.
To enhance the notion of the Digital Pavilion as an integrated dynamic environment, display technology is embedded in its cellular building structure. All surfaces of the interior structure are of darkened, LED-backlit glass to give the impression of an infinite, media-rich or translucent space. The immersive experience is enhanced by making the displayed graphics and/or information respond to the visitors' presence.
In the Digital Pavilion physical and virtual reality are mixed. The physical environment has a virtual, digital extension superimposed on it. This is the virtual play and interaction component. The mixture of physical and virtual reality is called 'augmented reality'.
Visitors interact with the installations and the personalized, virtual content by using a special handheld interactive media device into which they program personal details, which are then used to configure the content they are exposed to. The handheld is not just a very advanced augmented reality gaming device; it is an essential tool in the discovery of the products and technologies displayed in the pavilion by the Korean authorities and exhibitors. Each cell of the pavilion 3D Voronoi structure has a virtual cell core or nucleus. Just as in organic cells, these hold the cells' genetic information. This can be information about the exhibitor using the cell and the products on display or information related to the experiences/games. This information is accessed by pointing the handheld device towards the virtual core and activating it.
The handheld devices also provide dynamic maps of the positions of visitors in real-time allowing them to browse through the list of exhibitors, products and embedded information about the product or information being used, which can then deliver a real-time context-aware media content feed as a guide to the items selected or being viewed/experienced at the time. RFID tracking of individual visitors throughout the building is also used to build up unique profiles of the interactions of people as they wander through the pavilion. The device then stores a record of the whole trip and all of the related media content, ready for remote retrieval, via the Internet, at a later date.
The Digital Pavilion showcases with architectural means the impact of digital technologies on our lives. This theme is elaborated specifically for each of the three levels of the pavilion, fit for the various usage demands of the consortium: Level Zero as hub and portal to other worlds; Level One as company exhibition area which supported by digital technologies can be reconfigured with the use of rapidly prototyped structural components according to the demands of its stakeholders; and Level Two as play and interaction zone where the augmented reality experiences are the most intense (Figures 3).
Level Zero: upon entering the pavilion the visitors register at the reception, hereby informing the overall system of the visitors' presence. This is the introductory area where visitors choose one of the four available experiences. These are the themes in which they can experience the Digital Pavilion visit. The governmental exhibition area allows for monumental presentations and large installations.
Level One: the Voronoi cell structure provides the exhibition stand space. The environment can be planned by the exhibitors themselves, who can negotiate their demands in the exhibition space; accessibility, neighbourhood and price tag via the game, through collaboration and optimization. When an exhibition stand needs to be changed, the game will take care of harmonizing the update and its immediate neighbourhood to the chosen design principles and aesthetics.
Level Two: here the merging of physical and virtual reality is at its apogee. Linear actuators are embedded in the edges of the spatial Voronoi cell structure capable of altering the lengths of the beams in real-time. The actuators, controlled via the handheld devices given to visitors, give the users the power to actively control the building’s internal form in real-time. Other players will try to do the same, and that is exactly where competitive game play starts to unfold. Through these the physical environment acts and reacts in conjunction with the digitally augmented reality, fully immersing the visitors in an amazingly dynamic and interactive world. In the middle, the open kinetic pneumatic structure crystallizes into a soft organic structure developed as a dynamic and programmable interactive construct (Figures 4 and 5). The goal is to achieve the thrill of experiencing being inside a living construct, where not only the visitors are unique characters interacting with the construct, but where each actuator also is a unique character acting and interacting with the other characters. Only then you will feel the installation to be alive, which is much more than being only responsive.
[Figure 4] [Figure 5]
Visitors can also engage in four different types of socially interactive experiences that result in alterations to the structures of the pavilion. By choosing a theme the visitors are submerged in an experience that mixes the physical environment of the pavilion with virtual play and interaction. Four types of experiences are offered in the interiors of the pavilion. Derived from an analysis of Asian popular cultural entertainment and selected to actively target different pavilion user groups, these ‘game-plays’ create dynamic and immersive team-based, as well as individual, social experiences. These experiences offer a compelling model for spatially embedded and enabled social interaction.
Conclusion - Experience Design
The architectural and interactive experience design of the Digital Pavilion form one integrated whole. The Digital Pavilion is an architectural hybrid in which environment and experience are deeply intertwined. To the visitors this shows in the total ubiquity of the environment: ambient graphic presence in the LED-embedded surfaces, the handheld providing localization and guidance, streamed media on the handheld, etc. The Digital Pavilion is extended online. Visitors can login to the Digital Pavilion website after their visit to browse through a log of their trip. Additional information about the products and companies they have watched is offered along with links to web shops where these items can be purchased.
Friedrich, H.C., ‘SmartVolumes - Adaptive Voronoi power diagramming for real-time volumetric design exploration’, in: ed. Th. G. Wyeld, Lecture Notes for Computer Science, Volume 4820/2008: VSMM07 Brisbane Proceeding, (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2007) pp. 132-142.