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Philip Beesley Architect Inc.

Hylozoic Soil ‘Hylozoic Soil‘ is part of the reflexive membranes series of Canadian architect and artist Philip Beesley. Philip Beesley Architect Inc. is a design firm working in Toronto and Southern Ontario. Work within the practice of Philip Beesley Architect includes public buildings, development planning, commercial facilities and offices, and residences. Scultptural work in the last decade has focused on lightweight ‘textile‘ environments, and landscape installations. ‘Hylozoic Soil‘ recently won first place for the 11th annual VIDA competition on Art and Artificial Life held by the Fundación Telefónica.



Hylozoic Soil takes its cue from Hylozoism, the philosophical view that all or some material things possess life. The piece offers patterns of motion by mechanical components that respond to occupants’ movement within the environment. The microprocessor-controlled system includes Arduino hardware, shape-memory alloy actuators and space sensors arranged in a distributed interactive system.

AC 220 V PS 1

PS 2

PS 3

Mounting Claw Steel Rod

Comm Cable

Arduino Board 1

AB 2

AB 3

AB 4

AB 5


Ribbon Cable B1 Ribbon Cables B2/ B3 5 + 4 Actuated Breathing Pores

Master Board Computer Ribbon Cable B4 3 Proximity Sensors 3 Kissing Pores

12 pairs of Whiskers

Steel Rod Mounting Claw

Breathing Column 1

BC 2

BC 3

BC 4

BC 5

Lily 3 (LL 3)


Philip Beesley Architect Inc.

242 Indian Road Toronto Canada M6R2W9 email web tel 416.766.8284 fax 416.604.3946

PS 4

PS 5

PS = Power Supply AB = Arduino Board BC = Breathing Column LL = Lily 9C= Nine Chevron Column


AB 7

AB 8

AB 9

AB 10


0913 Medialab Enschede Proximity Sensors


9C 3

BC 6

BC 7

BC 8

BC 9

5 Schematic of Electronic System

Excerpt from the Interactive/ Electronic System explanation for the VIDA 11.0 installation: “The installation consists of 9 actuated columns and 1 actuated lily. Each has one controller board (also refered to as ‘Arduino Board‘) installed in the top of the column or lily. 5 power supplies provide power to these controller boards. Each power supply is capable of powering two 2 controller boards. All power supplies will be located ontop of the ceiling of the exhibition space. Each power supply is marked above the mains power cord, with the number(s) of the columns/lilies they are powering. The main power needs to run up to the center of the ceiling of the exhibition space. The power supplies need all be connected to one power bar, a master switch or to one specific circuit breaker. This connection is needed to be able to reset (power on/off) all controller boards simultaneously. A conservative estimate of total power consumption can be calculated using the following assumptions: · maximum control current of 10A @ 5V in each of the daughterboards · conservative estimate of 1A @ 5V for electronics in each of the Arduinos · 80% power supply efficiency · 9 daughterboards · factor of safety of 2 Then total power consumption at the power supply inputs is ((10+1)x5/0.8)x2x10 ~= 1.4kW.”



Lightweight lattice and geodesic organizations form a structural core, employing digitally fabricated scaffolds that house distributed networks of sensors and actuators.The work is based on a program of gradual development moving from individual figures composed of complex hybrid organisms toward immersive architectural environments that include lightweight interior-linings and exterior shading and filtering assemblies.



Hylozoic Soil implements a distributed sensor network driven by dozens of microprocessors, generating waves of reflexive responses to those drawn into its vast array of acrylic fern stalagmites. Different levels of programmed activity encourage the emergence of coordinated spatial behaviour: thirty-eight controller boards produce specific responses to local action, while a bus controller uses sensor activity collated from all the boards to command an additional ‘global’ level of behaviour.





Manuel Kretzer is an architect and designer from Germany. He studied architecture at the Universities of Dresden, South Australia and Karlsruhe, where he graduated in 2008 with an interactive pavilion for the Burning Man Festival. He worked as Research and Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Karlsruhe and later he was employed with Philip Beesley Architect Inc. in Toronto, Canada. Since March 2010 he works at the Chair of CAAD at the ETH in Z端rich. His focus lies on temporary, interactive art and architecture he has realized a number of large scale sculptures and installations.

Publications and Press Reviews:

Riverside Architectural Press (2007) Hyloyoic Soil - geotextile installations 1995 - 2007 Thames & Hudson Inc. (2007) Digital Architecture Now - A global survey of emerging talent China Architectural & Building Press (2008) Immaterial Processes: New Digital Techniques for Architecture Leonardo Volume 42 (2009) Hylozoic Soil Princeton Architectural Press (2009) Interactive Architecture Princeton Architectural Press (2009) Installations by Architects - Experiments in Building and Design



Philip Beesley Architect Inc.

Manuel Kretzer, 2009

Hylozoic Soil  

‘Hylozoic Soil‘ is part of the reflexive membranes series of Canadian architect and artist Philip Beesley.Philip Beesley Architect Inc. is a...

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