Epiphyte Chamber, an immersive environment erected for the inauguration of the Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art, Seoul, 2014, demonstrates key organizations employed by LASG constructions including lightweight resilient scaffolds, distributed interactive computational controls, and integrated protocell chemical metabolism. Epiphyte Chamber, MMCA, Seoul, Korea [2013-14]. Photograph: Philip Beesley


The AZ Awards is an initiative of AZURE, an award-winning magazine with a focus on contemporary architecture and design
Since its launch in 1985, AZURE has earned a global reputation for excellence. The magazine brings readers the very best in contemporary architecture, interiors, furniture and products from around the world. Insightful designer profiles and features on beautiful, functional buildings and spaces, as well as intelligent, well-crafted objects, fill the pages of each issue. AZURE consistently delivers leading-edge innovations, expert information and fresh ideas.

Posted 2 July 2015

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2015 Jury
AZURE presents the five jurors of the fifth annual AZ Awards:
Winka Dubbeldam
Award-winning architect Winka Dubbeldam is Chair and Professor at the Architecture Department of PennDesign, and has taught her research-based approach to eager master’s students at Columbia, Harvard, Cornell and PennDesign. But that’s not all: as founder of New York design practice Archi-Tectonics, Dubbeldam is the luminary behind everything from buildings with bold, faceted facades in New York to the bottom-up revitalization of downtown Bogota.

Brendan Macfarlane
Digital technology and environmental strategies are increasingly important components of an architect’s toolbox, and nowhere are these better integrated than in the work of Brendan Macfarlane and his Paris firm, Jakob + Macfarlane. From the geometric metal-clad FRAC Architecture Exhibition Centre in Orléans to the bold green 10,000-square-metre Euronews Headquarters on the waterfront in Lyon, Macfarlane’s commitment to creating responsive and flexible built environments is evident in every project.

Philippe Malouin
Born in Canada, trained in Eindhoven, Paris and Montreal, and now based in London, designer Philippe Malouin is bridging the trans-Atlantic gap in the design world. Since getting his start working for Tom Dixon, Malouin has developed sculptural furniture, boldly hued rugs, ethereal lights and otherworldly installations for the likes of Roll & Hill, Kvadrat, Established & Sons, Swarovski and more.

Anwar Mekhayech
In less then 10 years, DesignAgency – the studio that Anwar Mekhayech established with Matt Davis and Allen Chan in 2007 – has earned international renown. This is thanks, in part, to the fact that the founders spent three years hosting Designer Guys on HGTV. But it’s also because of their collaborative approach to projects, including Toronto’s Momofuku restaurant and the Generator hostel brand. The Generator series of boutique hostels, for which Mekhayech acts as global creative director, brings modern design to even the most cash-strapped travellers across Europe.

Janet Rosenberg
Since 1983, Janet Rosenberg has been synonymous with innovative landscape architecture. A focus on the identity of the modern city is at the core of Janet Rosenberg & Studio. From the Pan Am and Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House, being built for the 2015 games, to the blown-glass flowers at the Max Tanenbaum Healing Garden at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, she is transforming Toronto’s outdoor spaces. With diverse projects in Canada, the U.S. and beyond, Rosenberg’s environmentally sensitive, yet innovative, approach is also spreading across the globe.
Top players in the international architectural and design community, from Canada, the U.S., Denmark and beyond, gathered at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works tonight as Azure announced the winners of its fifth annual AZ Awards.
From affordable housing in France that borders on minimalist luxury, to Kickstarter-funded tiles made from old television sets and computer monitors, the 19 winners of the AZ Awards demonstrate an expansive spirit of innovation. At tonight’s event, many of the winners took to the stage – some coming from as far away as Denmark and Dubai – to receive their trophies, which were designed by last year’s guest of honour, Karim Rashid. All 66 of the finalists, which were also up for People’s Choice awards, were applauded by a standing-room-only audience.
Taken together, all of the submissions – from designers, architects, firms and manufacturers, as well as students of design and architecture – represent a global snapshot of the world of architecture and design. Our international jury was also made up of some of the very best in their fields: architect Winka Dubbeldam of Archi-Tectonics (New York, US), architect Brendan MacFarlane of Jakob + MacFarlane (Paris, France), designer Anwar Mekhayech of the Design Agency (Toronto, Canada), landscape architect Janet Rosenberg of Janet Rosenberg & Studio (Toronto, Canada) and designer Philippe Malouin (London, UK).
In March, the panel conferred at Toronto’s Thompson Hotel to narrow down an impressive 720 entries from 43 countries to a shortlist of 66 finalists. From there, they selected the 19 outstanding winners, which are featured below.

-Best Residential Architecture – Single Family: PARA-Project: Haffenden House, Syracuse, USA
-Best Residential Architecture – Multi-Unit: Antonini Darmon: Oiseau des Îles Social Housing, Nantes, France
-Best Commercial  ⁄ Institutional Architecture Over 1,000 Square Metres: John Wardle Architects and NADAAA in collaboration: Melbourne School of Design, Melbourne, Australia
-Best Commercial  ⁄  Institutional Architecture Under 1,000 Square Metres: SchilderScholte Architecten: Pani Community Centre, Rajarhat, Bangladesh
-Best Landscape Architecture: GH3: June Callwood Park, Toronto, Canada
-Best Temporary /  Demonstration Architecture: Philip Beesley Architect: Epiphyte Chamber, Seoul, Korea
-Best Residential Interior: Francesco Librizzi Studio: Casa G, Sicily, Italy
-Best Commercial  ⁄ Institutional Interior: Burdifilek: Galleria Luxury Hall West, Seoul, Korea
-Best Furniture Design: Arper: Kinesit, by Lievore Altherr Molina
-Best Furniture System: Randers + Radius: Grip Tablesystem, by GrumDesign
-Best Lighting Fixture: Vibia: Wireflow, by Arik Levy
-Best Lighting Installation: Licht Kunst Licht: Art Museum Ahrenshoop
-Best Interior Product: Fireclay Tile: CRT Glass Tile, by Paul Burns
-Best Unbuilt Competition Entry: Steven Christensen Architecture: Liepaja Thermal Bath
-Best Concept / Prototype: Andrei Gheorghe: Robotic Infiltrations
-Danny Karas (SCI-Arc, Los Angeles, USA): M&N
-H&P Architects: Toigetation, Cao Bang, Vietnam
-Saunders Architecture: Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada
-Sofia Ceylan, Katharina Laekamp and Leonie Otten: Memory of the Arctic
More information:

The forms of the installation turn away from the minimum surface exposures of reductive crystal forms as they seek to increase their exposure and interchange with the atmosphere. Epiphyte Chamber, MMCA, Seoul, Korea [2013-14]. Photograph: Philip Beesley

Interactive tentacle integrated into a LASG environment. Epiphyte Chamber, MMCA, Seoul, Korea [2013-14] Photograph: Philip Beesley

Best Temporary /  Demonstration Architecture: Philip Beesley Architect: Epiphyte Chamber, Seoul, Korea
Epiphyte Chamber
 “There’s no instruction manual for how to interact: you have to learn by doing. As you walk beneath it, you pass through branches extending almost to the ground, covered in inviting, icicle-white fronds whose strings just about beg you to pull on them. The moment your skin makes contact with them, they confidently vibrate, a response that leads many otherwise inhibited art-viewers to let out a surprised yelp. As the vibration starts, the fronds curl upwards in a wave before the whole thing slowly returns to a sleep-like resting state.”
- Michael Slezak, New Scientist (re: Hylozoic Series)

Epiphyte Chamber explores a new generation of interactive and responsive spaces, raising fundamental questions about how architecture might behave in the future. Might future buildings begin to know and care about us? Might they start, in very primitive ways, to become alive? Epiphyte Chamber is envisioned as an archipelago of interconnected halo-like masses that mimic human sensations through subtle, coordinated movements. The work is conceived as an 'epiphyte'; an aerial plant species that can grow without the support of soil. Across each floating island, densely interwoven structures and delicate canopies made of thousands of lightweight digitally-fabricated components are drawn together in nearly-synchronized breathing and whispers. Audiences walk into highly sensual, intimate sculptural spaces that support small clusters of activity interlinking into larger gathering areas. This experimental new work explores intersections between media art, interactive distributed mechatronics and synthetic biology. South Korean President Guen-Ye Park acclaimed the work as a model for the way South Korea should integrate its culture and technology. The installation was part of the inaugural Aleph Exhibition at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea, November 12, 2013 to March 14, 2014.
Epiphyte Chamber features interactive lighting and kinetic mechanisms that use dense arrays of microprocessors and sensors. The work contemplates the ability of an environment to be near-living; to stimulate intimate evocations of compassion with viewers through artificial intelligence and mechanical empathy. Like any ecology and any material system, the environment is partial, reacting only to certain excitements and evincing awareness of only certain things. The viewer will become aware of subtle impacts: air, moving around the body, perhaps charges in surrounding magnetic fields that one disturbs as they pass. The work offers dimensions scaled close to the human body, revealing subtle phenomena and complex aggregate organizations within scales that work progressively outward from hand and body-based dimensions toward forms of small groups and collective meeting spaces. Rather than human-centred power, ethics of mutual relations within wide and sometimes alien systems are implied by this work.

The installation offers a deeper exploration of the interpersonal and collective physical exchanges between audience and installation through investigations into human scale gesture and auras. The work explores what happens when spaces cease to be stable or rigid and become mutually active with subjects where maximum interaction is encouraged. This pursuit points to practical work, and an examination of the psychology of encountering and working within an interactive environment.

Technical Description
Dimensions: 10m x 6m x 5m
Cost: $300,000
Dimensions: 12m x 4m x 9m
Materials: metals, glass, mylar, acrylic, electronics
Epiphyte Chamber is composed of hundreds of small mechanisms that function similar to glands, pores, and hair follicles within the skin of an organism permeate. Expressive biomimetic mechanisms powered by shape-memory alloy actuators are mounted within these sculptural scaffolds. Embedded sensors trigger these mechanisms that provide subtle kinetic responses, massed together to make rippling fields that respond to the presence of viewers. Alternating groves of filter mechanisms, cricket clusters and swarms of capacitance sensing whiskers react to the touch of viewers with subtle curling and twitching responses, propelling humidified air, perfume, and organic material over fields of glands and traps. The massed, interlinking structures appear quite fragile, but they acquire strength and resilience through their textile organizations, which provide ‘force-shedding’ qualities in which elements that receive force are allowed to give way and transfer their forces to neighbouring supports in chains of interlinked responses. 

Elevation of Epiphyte Chamber illustrating distribution of different scaffolding, interactive and chemical systems.
Photograph: Philip Beesley

Adjacent elements communicate with one another, spreading occupant signals in waves of emotive kinetic reactions. A distributed control system employing arrays of microprocessors uses feedback and mixed cycles of internal (organic autonomic) and external (interactive) triggers. Nested communication systems are used that provide rippling choruses that amplify the internal and external triggers for behaviour. The organization approaching ‘subsumption’ in which nested reflexes are built within the system, producing a deeply interwoven machine intelligence moving beyond polarized models of top-down and bottom-up. Organic power is created by simple vinegar batteries, providing internal sources of triggered behaviour akin to internal breathing, offering a poignant contrast to the deliberate responses created by viewers. The variety of mechanized spaces serves to express both the group behavior of the elements as well as the interactive environment on a personal scale.

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