Topographies of Light: A design exploration of distributed lighting systems through data-physicalization

Monday, January 09, 2023 at 2:00pm to 6:00pm

Instructors: Dr. Augusto Gandia (MIT), Dr. Aileen Iverson (TU Berlin), Gonzalo Casas (ITA, ETH Zurich), Tom Marshall (PulseForge).

Dates: 4 Mondays from 2 to 6pm, starting January 9th.

Location: Studio 7-434

Course Overview
In the last decade, computational design paired with digital fabrication technologies have fostered a radical shift from traditional centralized artificial lighting sources towards decentralized systems (e.g. light emitting surfaces). This shift presents a unique design opportunity to further explore the relationship between architecture and light, which potentially leads to a novel perception of space. Exploring such designs, however, poses the challenge of navigating the design opportunities situated at the intersection between current precise means of representation/production and the beauty of irregular naturally grown materials (e.g. wood panels). To address this problem, the workshop introduces data-physicalization, as design method to assist such intricate exploration endeavor that potentially results into space and fabrication informed distributed lighting systems.

Intended Learning Outcomes
In this four week course you will develop your skills in electronic circuitry, in microprocessor and scripting interface with parametric modeling. These skills are applicable towards future research in robotics, kinetic modeling, and VR/ AR. Uniquely we will be studying these methodologies in how they are affected by/ altered/ enhanced natural materials and conversely how these digital/ computation methodologies can shape natural systems. Here instruction will be given by leading researchers and experts from the screen printing industry. Participants will come away with a deeper knowledge and ability of the methodologies and tools used as well as understand conceptually the contemporary and relevant topic of intersecting physical and computational systems. 
Short Sessions Summary - full detailed handouts will be provided at each session

Session 1 (January 9th, from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm) – Contextualization and Conceptualization

This first session introduces the context of the workshop, which is data-physicalization as emerging design method to enable the digital manufacturing of distributed lighting systems. Additionally, it serves to introduce the design brief which will be incrementally developed throughout the four sessions. The outcome will be a concept, which will evolve throughout the next three sessions.

Session 2 (January 16th, from 2:00pm to 6:00pm) – Design Space Definition
This second session is focused on embedding the involved constraints (spatial, material and fabrication) into a design explorer.

An optional morning session will introduce the CAD agnostic COMPAS framework developed at the NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich.

Session 3 (January 23th, 4:00pm to 6:00pm) – Hands-on Meeting
This third session serves to refine the concept and solving implementation issues.

Session 4 (January 30, 2:00pm to 6:00pm) – Final Concept Sharing

This last session consists of presenting and discussing the developed concept.

Optional Gatherings will be offered on Fridays to refine concepts and solve computational design and prototyping issues.

The workshop will not be graded, however, if you are interested in achieving a relevant outcome, for example an entry for your C.V. or an object, we encourage you to attend all sessions, actively participate in discussions, present and document your work, as well as prototype your concept.


Basic knowledge in geometry modeling​ (Rhino), visual programming (Grasshopper) or scripting (Python, Python within COMPAS, etc).

If you are interested, please let us know and we will confirm your enrollment asap. 

Feel free to reach out if it needs further clarification or you have suggestions.

Event Type

IAP (Independent Activities Period)

Events By Audience

MIT Community

Events By School

School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P)

Department of Architecture
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