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The living architecture of Philip Beesley

"Radiant Soil" installation immerses viewers in a state of "delicious vertigo"

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Philip Beesley is a Canada-based architect who has spent years blurring the lines between nature and technology. In 2008, he began work on the Hyozolic series — a collection of immersive installations that react to, and evolve with, the movements of people who pass through them. The idea, according to Beesley, is to create a "metabolic architecture," whereby manmade structures are seen not as inanimate, fixed objects, but as living, breathing entities, capable of regeneration and growth.

The most recent addition to the Hyozolic series, Radiant Soil, debuted earlier this summer at the EDF Fondation in Paris, France. The installation is comprised of tall, plant-like structures made from glass, polymers, and metals that are suspended from the ceiling. The interlinked "clouds," as Beesley calls them, include motion-tracking and touch sensors that trigger certain responses based on a viewer's movements. Touching one of its plume-like branches, for instance, elicits a vibration that slowly contracts and expands the frond, as a soft air stream runs through its "pores". Arrays of LED lights, meanwhile, flash and ripple with the movements of a viewer, and scent glands emit "musky, ginger-like" odors that, like a flower, lure people in as they draw near. An Arduino circuit board ties everything together, recording and looping the various actions to create a "store of memory," like a very primordial brain. According to Beesley, Radiant Soil is more than a theoretical exercise; it's a step toward a new, more immersive paradigm of architectural language.

All images provided courtesy of Radiant Soil, Espace EDF Paris, France, 2013 ©PBAI.

'Radiant Soil,' by Philip Beesley


Clusters of interlinked LED lights emit bright flashes and ripples as viewers pass through the space.

Radiant Soil is on display as part of the ALIVE / EN VIE exhibition at the EDF Fondation in Paris through September 1st.