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April 20, 2011
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Event: Between Architecture and Science: Material Analogs
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.12.11
Speaker: Jenny Sabin — Principal, Jenny Sabin Studio & Co-founder, Sabin + Jones LabStudio
Organizer: AIANY Technology Committee
Sponsor: ABC-Imaging

Fourier Tapestry (left); eSkin.

Jenny Sabin (left); Jenny E. Sabin, Sabin+Jones LabStudio (image); Shu Yang, Nader Engheta, Jan Van der Spiegel, Peter Lloyd Jones, Andrew Lucia, University of Pennsylvania; Supported by the NSF EFRI SEED (right)

Although the relationships made between science and architecture are not new, Jenny Sabin, principal of Jenny Sabin Studio and co-founder of Sabin + Jones LabStudio, is a pioneer, working with advanced technologies to develop what she calls, “hybrid research.” At her recent talk, Sabin explained her collaboration with cellular molecular biologist Peter Lloyd Jones and how, through linking scientific data processing based on cellular behavior, her work is aiming to advance the architectural profession. Reciprocally, she hopes that her work will help advance the field of science, as well.

Sabin believes that architects and designers can learn from the way scientists develop systems. Her process begins by establishing ground rules and goals for a project. She creates associative and hierarchical relationships, develops algorithms to reflect behavior, and ultimately uses visualization and simulation tools to understand complex, dynamic forms and functions. Whether she and her students are weaving, or developing advanced building façades, her process produces projects that transcend traditional constructs. For example, Sabin created “Fourier Carpets” that were designed through a set of algorithms and woven by a digitized Jacquard loom. The result is a line of rugs that were self-generated and unique. For eSkin, she collaborated with four scientists to develop an adaptive building skin. Through the study of cellular behavior — specifically how cells can modify their own micro environment using a minimal amount of energy — they developed a reactive façade that adjusts to everything from weather conditions to human interaction.

Sabin is excited about the potential for scientific partnerships to advance both fields at trans-scalar levels. By studying nature at a molecular level, the information she is gathering moves beyond simple biomimicry, and enters the realm of architecture that can literally shift and change according to its surroundings.

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