“Adaptive Artifacts” is a kinetic weather sensor, sculpture-like structure that transforms with changing environmental conditions without motors by the means of passive actuation and manual rearrangement of parts by users. The project is being developed through a partnership between an urban space operator (The Bentway Conservancy, Toronto), industry partners (Entuitive Engineering, HOK, Turner Fleischer Architects) and academia (University of Waterloo).The Artifact responds to site-specific environmental conditions present at The Bentway, an active 4-season programming and recreation space below the active Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, Canada.

As both a site of active urban renewal and a catalyst for public participation in city-building dialogs, The Bentway’s unique microclimate and amenities present an opportunity to investigate the project at a manageable scale, speculating on larger scale deployment in under-utilized and sub-optimal urban spaces throughout the city at large. This installation demonstrates that adaptive, nature inspired, data-driven, digitally fabricated architecture can improve the quality of urban spaces through mitigating sub-optimal environmental conditions with focus on thermal comfort, wind, and noise levels. Movements of parts are monitored and recorded with sensors and over time, predictive models optimize the shape of the artifact for improved thermal comfort.

The project will be deployed in multiple prototyping phases, and will be accompanied by a smartphone app and a website interface (“explore_and_play”) that lets users interact with the artifact and review anonymized collected data to better understand environmental phenomena and how data is being collected. The digital twin of the project will also allow users to provide feedback about their physical experience, playfully explore configurations of the artifacts to observe their predicted effect on the environment, and observe the collected data from the artifact and its iterations over time. Due to the open-source nature of the project, it is intended that other designers can contribute by extending the database with their configurations or use the collected data in their own projects (“database_of_shapes”).

The digital twin solution, “explore_and_play” web app, and the “database_of_shapes” user interface is being developed using the Unreal Engine 4/5 and Speckle.

Key collaborators:

Mark Cichy, HOK

Patryk Wozniczka, Entuitive

Robert McKaye, The Bentway

David Correa, University of Waterloo

Mohsen Assaqqaf, Turner Fleischer Architects

Brent Mauti, Turner Fleischer Architects

Matthew Spremulli, Autodesk

The Bentway:

The Bentway re-imagines how we build, experience, activate, and value public space together. Our work is anchored by a new and growing site located under Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, which we operate, maintain, and program as a platform for creative practice, public art, and connected urban life.

Phase 1 of The Bentway opened in January 2018 with The Bentway Skate Trail and was completed in August 2018 with the opening of Strachan Gate. Phase 1 stretches from Strachan Ave. to Fort York Blvd. and is located on lands that are part of Fort York National Historic Site, recognized by the Government of Canada as being of national significance. As a new model for public space in Toronto and a forum for social engagement, The Bentway continues to evolve amidst the changing landscape of the city, developing opportunities and partnerships that address the key issues of our time.

Land Acknowledgement:

We acknowledge that our work takes place on the treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit and the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Métis, and many other Indigenous nations. Tkaronto, “the place in the water where the trees are standing”, is now home to many diverse Indigenous people. We recognize them as the past, present and future caretakers of this land. We would like to pay our respects to all who have gathered and will continue to gather in this place. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work together to care for The Bentway lands and act as stewards of the space.