Together, Skylar Tibbits and Arthur Olson presented a large-scale installation at the 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach, CA entitled The Self-Assembly Line – a large-scale version of a self-assembly virus module, demonstrated as an interactive and performative structure. A discrete set of modules are activated by stochastic rotation from a larger container/structure that forces the interaction between units. The unit geometry and attraction mechanisms (magnetics) ensure the units will come into contact with one another and auto-align into locally-correct configurations. Overtime, as more units come into contact, break away, and reconnect, larger, furniture scale elements emerge. Given different sets of unit geometries and attraction polarities various structures could be achieved. By changing the external conditions, the geometry of the unit, the attraction of the units and the number of units supplied, the desired global configuration can be programmed. Continue reading for more.
The installation presents, at the architectural-scale, biomimetic processes that span from molecules to organisms. Making these processes explicit in a large-scale, dynamic, aesthetic context provides a universally accessible demonstration of phenomena that are usually hidden from common experience.
The underlying mechanisms that promote self-assembly and the generation of structural complexity from stochastic input are fundamental to our understanding of living systems. Experiencing the dynamics of such mechanisms provides the conceptual scaffolding for understanding scientific ideas that range from thermodynamics to evolution, without necessarily framing it in those terms. The installation itself demonstrates how such concepts can be adapted to uses that encompass human ingenuity and expression.