In the age of ubiquitous computing, we’ve grown fairly used to infrastructure, objects and even furniture that adapt to the presence of humans. But what if you could control the behaviour of a wall or room simply by thinking harder?
That’s the impetus behind Cerebral Hut, an installation by the Turkish architect Guvenc Ozel. The hut, which is made up of 10 hexagonal panels programmed to expand and contract on command, was part of a show at the last Istanbul Biennial. Ozel bought a commercially available brainwave reader — like this NeuroSky headset — and wrote a script that turns the brain activity of the user into motion cues for the panels. Standing beneath the curved half-wall, visitors could control the size of the panels and the pace of their deformation simply by concentrating and blinking.
It’s a crude example of where brain science and architecture could eventually intersect, as sensor technology evolves. “We traditionally assume that the built environment, whether in the architectural or the urban scale, influences our psyche,” Ozel explains. “What if we can reverse that relationship? What if a kinetic architecture could establish a direct connection between the thoughts of its user and itself in order to reconfigure its physical boundaries accordingly?”
Neurologists and architects have long been drawn to each others’ professions — hell, there’s even an institute devoted to their union — but until recently, research into how architecture directly affects the brain (and vice versa) has been limited by tech that’s either clunky or wildly expensive. Now, we’re entering an era when off-the-shelf hardware is making it possible for designers with minimal experience in either field to experiment at the intersection of brains and buildings.