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Digital Ecologies /// The University of Edinburgh /// ESALA /// AD3 /// 2013-2014 Semester 1

Synergetic Anemochory * 1800  


Jack Cripps & Rachel Braude

1. Concept Our Digital Ecologies concept works in conjunction with our Design Explorations proposal. The design scheme is situated on the Isle of Rum


and proposes to re-establish three species of trees across the territorial scale that we are investigating. As outlined in the ‘Scottish National Heritage publication No. 89: Isle of Rum NNR: vegetation history and landscape change by J John Lowe, 1998’, these trees were once abundant in the area of interest yet due to reasons including human intervention for arable purposes this high-density population of trees is no longer in existence. If our proposal were to be successfully implemented it would create a rich environment for the ecosystem of the island to flourish within. Developing


a connection between digital and tree ecologies is something that we hope to achieve. We began with an initial focus on the fluid condition of the wind and how its characteristics enable for plants and trees to disperse their seeds across a landscape. Stemming from this we became aware of a secondary strategy that furthered the likelihood of tree growth. This system, known as


‘Endozoochory’ involves seed dispersal via the ingestion of vertebrate animals, where we held a particular interest in the digestive system of birds. We then designed two stations with these natural phenomena in mind. The first station (‘The Collector’) inhabits a site of dense woodland adjacent to a river, 20 metres above sea level. It collects the seeds of the three respective trees, which fall into that river by bridging over the water setting traps for them to be caught. Through this system of ‘Hydrochory’ (seed dispersal via water) the seeds are acquired, identified, prepared and stored ready for transportation to the second station. ‘The Collector’ houses a machine (Concept for Machine A) that emulates aspects of a bird’s

Scenario Drawings  

Fig. 1. Scenario diagrams showing wind density patterns in relation to growing woodland within the proposal.  

digestive system. In this case, it abstracts the process of food entering a bird’s mouth, passing through the intestines and exiting through the colon. (The system shown below in Fig. 3.) The machine acts within a dam spanning the river, on one side apertures allow the seeds floating on the surface of the water to pass through the dam and exit at the collection point on the other side. The second station (‘The Disperser’) inhabits an exposed site further up the hill of the Coire, 131 metres above sea level, currently absent of any tree growth. As previously stated, the seeds are transported from ‘The Collector’ to ‘The Disperser’. This station, as the name suggests, is concerned with dispersing the collected seeds across the landscape in an attempt for them to establish themselves. The structural and aesthetic focus of this station is one of verticality as height is an important factor in successful anemochory of this type. The small machine (Concept for Machine B) held at this site is one that is replicated numerous times to cover the entirety of the skin of the building. With regards to the bird’s digestive system, this machine is demonstrative of the cloaca, which is highlighted in Fig. 2. In order to disperse the seeds the machine opens and closes in response to conditions of the wind. * ‘Anemochory’ - Seed dispersal via wind.

Fig.  2.  Internal  Bird  Anatomy. mons/thumb/e/ea/PigeonAnatomy.png/240 px-­‐PigeonAnatomy.png  

Fig.  3.    Exposed  Internal  Bird  Anatomy.   . m3.gif  

2a. Method (Method of Machine A) Machine A operates within the boundaries of the river that runs through the site. Data was acquired from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which included water level and water flow information from the River Alness dating from 1973 to the present day. It was not possible to acquire data from the specific river on site, however, the data that has been applied to the machine acts in place of this information. It is our intention that within our proposal the water level and water flow information of the on-site river would have a live effect on the workings of the machine. In regards to the workings of the machine, investigations into the mechanics of an iris and the opening and closing of apertures were first conducted. In order to gain an initial understanding of how the iris mechanism could be modeled the form of them had to be basic. The iris was composed of two identical surfaces. The first surface remained stationary whilst the second surface rotated around an axis within the same plane as the first. Once the workings had been understood, the form of the machine could be added to and as a result it became more complex. In relation to the iris, the apertures were far simpler as it was purely a case of adjusting the radius of a circle, as opposed to rotating components within an aperture. The tubular form which creates the link between the iris and the aperture represents the intestines of the digestive system as discussed above. These components of the machine embody the workings of bird digestion, from intake to journey to outflow.

3a. Machine (Machine A) The machine operates in three different parts, as highlighted above. The seeds that are carried on the water’s surface are consumed by the first set of apertures, which respond to the water level. This water level is always fluctuating but the changes are more distinct between seasons. From this point the seeds and water in-taken pass through the intestine-like tubes, spanning the length of the dam. The tubes themselves morph in response to water flow, in the way that if the flow is greater than what is necessary to transport the seeds the tubes begin to bulge. Likewise, if the flow is too low then the tubes begin to contract. This acts as a visual representation of the condition of the river in terms of flow. These growing and shrinking effects of the tubes happen as a result of the rotation of the components within the iris. These points in the machine detect whether the water flow is too high or too low, where they then rotate to varying degrees letting more or less water through. These rotating devices regulate the pressure within the machine. The average volume of water within the tubes is recorded twice daily. This information is sent to Pachube, however, within our Design Explorations proposal the recordings would be sent to a database housed within a computer at ‘The Disperser’. From this data the inhabitant of ‘The Disperser’ would be able to gain an understanding of the conditions of the river further down the hill.

[Machine A - Grasshopper screenshot]


[Machine A - Screenshot 1]


[Machine A - Screenshot 2]


[Machine A - Xively upload screenshots, change in volume of tubes]


2b. Method (Method of Machine B) Machine B functions within the skin of the architecture that houses it. Data acquired from Xively consisted of wind speed and wind direction, recorded in Scotland at … intervals over the course of … Similarly it was not possible to acquire specific site data from The Isle of Rum, so likewise this information was applied to the machine in its place. In the same vein as ‘The Collector’ the ambition is that the wind flow and direction would be quantified on site and as a result would have a live impact on the functions of the machine. The machine’s ammunition of seeds, as mentioned, is supplied from ‘The Collector’ in small capsules that are then inserted into the machine ready for deployment. When looking at the specific workings of the machine, the way in which components can rotate around a point was explored. These components initially took the form of simple folding and unfolding armatures. These armatures eventually progressed into a more substantial and employable form, which when functioning emulated the opening of a lily. The design moved away from this form to a more abstract conical shape, as it seemed that the lily was too literal a translation of a natural ecology. This opening form is representative of the anatomical part of the bird, the cloaca, as the function is concerned with expelling the seeds out from the building, back across the landscape. The most effective way of expelling these seeds to ensure maximum displacement from the building is, as stated previously, from a greater height. Therefore, the density of the machines covering the skin increases in correlation with the rising elevation of the building.

3b. Machine (Machine B) The skin of the building, which houses the machines, is assigned a vector alongside the wind direction, which is also a vector. A system was then established which allowed for the angle between the two vectors to be measured. The machine reacts to this angle when it falls within the desired range, in the sense that the rotations of the armatures reach their full extent when the vector difference is at its optimum. In other words, the surface of the building senses the wind speed and direction, in turn causing the machines to open and release the seeds. This is dependent on whether these speeds and directions are suitable. The wind direction being parallel to the face of the building is ideal and any speed greater than 5km/h is also adequate. (In order to ensure that the armatures opened in more steady increments rather than immediately moving to extremities, the XML data acquired from Xively had to be edited in Adobe Dreamweaver.) Each time the machines open, the angle of rotation of the armatures is outputted and uploaded to Pachube, (or within the context of the proposal, the database). Overtime this should provide a quantitative record, giving evidence of the dominant wind direction on site as well as the wind intensity experienced. This relay of information is significant due to the fact that it allows both machines to communicate and in turn register conditions at the different sites. An accumulative record will form over time highlighting patterns within the environment, and therefore giving scope for the system’s performance to be improved in the future.

[Machine B - Grasshopper screenshot]


[Machine B - Screenshot 1]


[Machine B - Screenshot 2] ]


[Machine B - Screenshot 3] ]




[Machine B

- Xively upload screenshots, change in

rotation of armatures]


[Xively Upload – Screenshot 1] ]



[Xively Upload – Screenshot 2]



Digital Ecologies: Report