Diffusion Choir

Submitted by Sosolimited

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Client: Biomed Realty

Location: Cambridge, MA, United States

Completion date: 2016

Project Team

Artist

Eric Gunther

Sosolimited

Artist

Bill Washabaugh

Hypersonic

Artist

Jeff Lieberman

Plebian Design

Architect

Paul Zajfen

CO Architects

Client

Sal Zinno

BioMed Realty

Overview

BioMed Realty asked us to create an artwork that reflected the innovative work of their tenants and had a calming, fountain-like presence in the atrium.

Diffusion Choir celebrates the beauty of collaboration by visualizing the movements of an invisible flock of birds. Four hundred paper-like elements form a hanging volume in the sunlit atrium. Each element can independently fold open and close, controlled by custom software running a flocking algorithm. The footprint of the artwork is approximately 10 by 28 feet. It is 90 feet tall, spanning several floors of the atrium.

Goals

The building was finished and filling up with tenants when we began the project. The primary goal for integrating the artwork was to create a more comfortable space for socializing. The balconies and stairways of the atrium are primary passageways for workers to move around the building during the day. From the beginning we aimed to design an artwork that preserved the open space and sight lines and work with the natural light from the skylight above.

Another important goal of integrating the work was to raise the profile of the building and its tenants. We worked to develop a science-driven narrative that reflected the innovative work being done in the building, and emotionally resonated with its residents.

Process

Sosolimited collaborated with Plebian Design to develop the concept for the piece. We wanted to create an artwork that could essentially disappear and appear from this air. As we developed the physical design, we worked with the pharmaceutical company in the building to craft a narrative—around flocking and collaboration—that reflected their story and brand.

Sosolimited lead the design of the sculpture form and flocking animations. We brought in Hypersonic who, along with Plebian, designed the electro-mechanical systems of the piece.

Additional Information

The movements of the sculpture are perpetually evolving, driven by the flocking simulation, which visitors can watch on a nearby flatscreen. Over the course of each hour, smaller groups of birds coalesce into a single entity, soaring through the air in fluid collaboration. At each quarter hour, the birds gather and perform special choreographed gestures across the sculpture. Its graceful breath-like movements create an open, contemplative space for the inhabitants of the building to enjoy. For all the complex technology behind it, the end effect is elegant and calming. People stop in their tracks and lose themselves in it.