As the only selected Asian and Singaporean finalist entry, DP Architects’ “Rhizome House” design was handpicked to be one of 14 lighting installations built for the Illuminade route of the prestigious Amsterdam Light Festival.
The light structure was on display to an estimated 1 million visitors from December 15 2016 – 8 January 2017 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
“Rhizome House” was chosen from 500 submissions worldwide in two categories impacting the water-based Water Colors route and land-based Illuminade route of the festival. Sited at the Hermitage Dock, one of the premier locations along the walkable Illuminade route, the “Rhizome House” light installation was highly visible due to its proximity to the canal, making it observable from the Water Colors boat tours as well.
The innovative design – geometrically derived from nature’s root-like rhizome structures – was a response to this year’s theme of “biomimicry” for Illuminade. Starting from the investigative process of bio-construction and why animals build, the man-made design is biomimetic in principle, inspired by the interconnected systems found in natural organisms.
As a result, the light installation contained brilliantly changing RGB light diodes and weather-resistant, translucent high-density polyethylene material parametrically shaped as root structures that grow, branch, and connect. Visitors were encouraged to explore their way through the roots, with light that responds and changes colour when it detects movement.
This was housed within a steel frame that recalls the construction of Dutch canal houses so that the design serves as a synthesis of the type of structures animals build – homes, traps and displays, forming a thought-provoking, fun and interactive connection between all three.
Rhizomes, or root networks, are displayed in a fun and interactive way by encouraging the curious user to enter the trap created by perceived boundaries. Light reacts as users engaged with the installation, which was shaped after a familiar house, creating a surprising contrast that further encourages interaction. The experience was intended to be a series of stimulating contradictions – familiar and foreign, amusing and thought-provoking, blue and then pink.
With its display of linkages and connections, Rhizome House was the embodiment of a pleasant crossroads between art, science, humanity and nature.
Using the house, trap and display typologies, DP Architects wanted to create a familiar, contextual element by using a steel frame derived from the profile of Dutch canal houses. Within that frame, an algorithmically-derived rhizome network was “trapped”, as a self-supporting structure aided by steel supports. Grasshopper was used to parametrically generate the geometry, allowing for rapid prototyping and iterative design.
The steel frame was installed first, in order to ensure the rhizomes can support themselves while acting as a ballast and wind brace. The rhizomes were then assembled in modules, or sections, according to the parametric labelling of the individual pieces. The geometry was “stripped” and unrolled to create flat 2D AutoCAD data to send to a laser cutter or CNC machine.
Construction of the rhizome house was an exercise in digital fabrication. Both the geometry, and assembly sequence, were scripted utilising Grasshopper for Rhinoceros, allowing multiple iterations and rapid prototyping to optimize parameters like structural stress, perforation, and seam geometry. A self-supporting structure in itself, the rhizomes were then further anchored to the dock using the frame of the canal houses, to brace and ballast the installation from traditionally strong winter Dutch winds.
Within the frame of each house, the rhizomes were ordered and subdivided by a series of control points then unrolled to generate flat-2D AutoCAD data. Finally, each element was perforated, labelled and nested into sheets for CNC cutting. The individual strips were then riveted together creating a stiff, self-supporting network within which the LED linear lights can be suspended. Each individual house was then packed into a shipping container and re-assembled on site.