a responsive system

“Fire” was comprised of a cluster of 22 digitally-fabricated cones that together formed a complex system capable of responding to people moving below it, triggering chain reactions of sound and light. People were convinced that the space was heated. It was not. The effect was purely psychological. This installation afforded a playful respite from the Michigan Winter. The structure was located in the approach to the University of Michigan’s Duderstadt Center.

“Fire” was commissioned as part of a University of Michigan initiative to explore arts-driven inquiry. Multidisciplinary teams were sponsored to develop work that explored environmental issues. Our team was given the element of fire to work with. a temporarily installed cluster of digitally fabricated, augmented objects that responded to visitors passing beneath,

We began by asking how to design fire, rethinking or repositioning its characteristics and attempting to use its broad range without ever having to strike a match. The resulting installation is not one of demonstration or direct teaching but instead tries to use the characteristics of fire to extend the way we might consider technology and experience.


PROJECT TYPE: Responsive System

LOCATION: The James and Anne Duderstadt Center, University of Michigan.

Design: Spring 2008 – Fall 2008
Completed: Fall 2008

FUNDING: Fire was commissioned by Arts Engine.

CREDITS: John Marshall (rootoftwo), Karl Daubmann (PLY Architecture), Werner Dahm (U.S. Air Force, Pentagon)

DIMENSIONS: 12′ (L) x 12′ (W) x 15′ (H)

MEDIA: Aluminum, 24 Arduino microcontrollers, 660 super bright LEDs, 17 passive infrared sensors, 4 speakers, 2 sub-woofers, custom audio, wiring, plywood, lumber.

The units that made up “Fire” were produced using associative geometrical modeling and parametric design and were lasercut from aluminum. Each unit contained digital processing from microcontrollers and sensors that triggered light and sound.