IoA Institute of Architecture

University of Applied Arts Vienna


Vibrant Matter

Vibrant Matter is an art-research project focusing on understanding climate change through artistic means.

The Influence of climatic conditions has various effects on population and population density. We can observe a direct relationship between the world distribution of urban sprawl and the respected isotherms. It is part of the argument that these isotherms are constantly moving and put tension on the current state of urbanization. Human society can only put two strategic logics into the process: Moving with the isotherm or adapting to the new climatic conditions.

Vibrant Matter hypothesizes the urban nature to be an amalgam of biological and artificially produced and technologically mediated matter that share a symbiotic life cycle within the same environment. Only by systematically understanding their relationships, we can contribute to a holistic image illuminating the influence of climate change. The main question becomes how atmospheric effects influence the living and non-living participants of the urban realm and how will they adapt to climate change.

The project aims to unravel principles of adaptation of urban metabolism as a response to energy flows. This will be achieved through observing biological and technological components of cities under extreme climatic pressure within distinct isotherms. Accordingly, dynamic events of exchange in between the components of the urban nature will be analyzed as flows of energy and information. We aim to capture stimuli, impulses, and catalysts by reducing the information to streams of measured data and by increasing the resolution of urban information.

New ways of measuring urban events will be investigated, by developing an apparatus for capturing the energy flows and transforming this information into artistic expression. Certain information such as ultrasonic waves or infrared waves which are very important in animal and botanical life are not in the human sense-able spectrum at all. Phenomena such as climate change are hard to understand, as it can only be perceived. Art has the power to augment the human experience by extending the limits of sensory impressions. In this sense data will not only be observed, collected and processed, yet, will be translated into a unique and intriguing experience. By designing transmedia art that is in continuous flux, the adaptive behavior shaped by the information of distinct environments will be explored.

Consequently, a new method of surveying the urban realm is proposed, by perceiving the built environment and its inhabitants as equal vibrant matter. Accordingly, a new theoretical cartography of interdependent systems will be established, synergizing cross-disciplinary methods of science, art, and architecture in relation to society, biology, and technology.

Bernhard Sommer
Zeynep Aksöz Balzar
Galo Moncayo Asan
Mark Balzar

Agent Based Parametric Semiology

Architecture and urbanism order social processes via their semantic associations as much as via physical separation and connection. The built environment functions through its visual appearance, via its legibility and its related capacity to frame and prime communication. The built environment is not just channelling bodies. It is orienting sentient, socialized beings who must actively comprehend and navigate ever more complex urban scenes. As a communicative frame, a designed space is itself a communication as premise for all communications that take place within its territory.

In a conventional design process, every designer adapts to and intervenes intuitively within the spontaneous and historically evolving semiological system of the built environment. The aim of agent based parametric semiology is it to move from an intuitive participation within an evolving semiosis to an explicit design agenda that understands the design of a large scale architectural complex as an opportunity to design a new, coherent system of signification, a new artificial architectural language, without relying on the familiar codes found in the existing built environments.

To operationalize the semantic layer of the designed environment within the design process the research proposes to develop agent based life process simulations. The semiological code is defined in terms of the agents’ behavioural rules or scripts being triggered by designed environmental features. This is the most original innovation within the proposed research project.

The aim of the research project is to develop new computational simulation capacities and thus a new approach to architectural design that better engages with the opportunities and challenges of today's networked society and which might lead to a new compelling type of architectural service that can meet the aspirations of contemporary clients. Collaborating with leading experts in the field of crowd simulation, as well as in structural and environmental optimization, the research involves the development of a new approach, setting a new task, developing new tools. The research culminates in exemplary creative design works that demonstrate the capacity and potential impact of the new approach on contemporary architectural and urban design. This research project is thus at the same time an artistic project, a form of research by design.

The research project will be headed by Patrik Schumacher, a leading figure in the fields of parametric design and architectural design research. Schumacher will be leading a team of distinguished researchers, who each can look back on a proven track record of academic research and experimental digital design practice, focusing on advanced scripting techniques, digital formal experimentation and the understanding of our built environment as an interface for interaction with its users.

Patrik Schumacher
Robert R. Neumayr
Josip Bajcer
Daniel Bolojan


The project goal is to establish an interaction between a human and a living material in order to develop a responsive environment that interacts, learns, grows and decays in relation to human presence and behavior. Co-corporeality spans between free ranging speculation and scientific research, and will be explored from three different perspectives; (1) Development of materials that can sense the environment and interact with a human, (2) Design of interfaces that allow non-verbal communication to evoke changes and responses within the material, (3) Production of full-scale proto-architectural installations.

Co-corporeality proposes new aesthetical and technological approaches to re-discuss the role of material systems within architecture emerging from questions of the terms nature and ecology brought up by synthetic biology, genetic engineering and cloning. Contrary to conventional building materials, “living materials” have the capability to be tailored and programmed in relation to the environment or specific needs, to transform the built environment into a “biological entity” and change the way we understand, observe and communicate with the built space. Co-corporeality applies new fabrication methodologies and novel sensor systems to create a radical new approach towards responsive and immersive environments.

University of Applied Arts, Vienna
Barbara Imhof
Daniela Mitterberger
Tiziano Derme
Waltraut Hoheneder
Damjan Minovski

The University of  Vienna, Department of Material Engineering 
Alexander Bismarck
Andreas Mautner
Kathrin Weilard
Neptun Yousefi

Austrian Institute of Artificial Intelligence 
Robert Trappl
Martin Gasser

Advisory Board
Rachel Armstrong, Alexander Arteaga, Philip Beesley, Petra Gruber

Fluid Bodies

Fluid Bodies is an interdisciplinary research project developing unprecedented artworks by omitting conventional formwork in the casting process.

Today’s design dilemma is a technological gap between sophisticated software models and their realization abilities. Complex shapes are easily drawn in computer software, but are very quickly limited when it comes to build them in real world, 1:1, scale with a reasonable budget. Artists, Designers and Architects should be able to build their formal ideas with affordable methods. There are many digital tools accessible to create efficient structures, striking aesthetic designs and parametric optimized shapes. But without an adaptive building industry to manufacture those structures and designs, they will stay in the realm of utopia and desire. Even if designers can prove long-term amortization in their projects, there is still fear about initial investments and very few construction companies that dare the challenge.

Additionally the material properties themselves, especially in architecture, sometimes need to fulfill very high standards in terms of thermal insulation, fire safety, acoustic qualities and especially robustness. In order to fulfil these requirements building in architecture is usually a combination of different materials with specific qualities that are constructed in layers. Depending on their visibility and relevance to define architectural form the various layers are custom engineered and manufactured to various degrees. E.g. in building envelopes functionality is divided into different material and constructional layers, such as cladding (visible layers), structure, and insulation (inner layers). Single Materials or material composites that need to define architectural form and combine different physical functionality like carrying loads (exceeding their own weight), insulation or weather-proofing require elaborate and expensive manufacturing methods, generally involving extensive formworks which imply additional material resources and additional manual or mechanical labor. Common examples of these materials/composites are concrete or resin. This proposal focuses on such materials requiring formwork and looks into the technical, procedural and design methods of reducing and optimizing casting processes offered by innovations and adaptions from non-architectural disciplines.

The team’s goal is to compile a technological method to produce architectural applications and products with new aesthetic properties, based on its knowledge on digital processing, casting materials and creating formwork. We thereby challenge conventional formwork principles with our transdisciplinary approach and a completely new point of departure to rethink casting molds and reinforcement.

Klaus Bollinger
Moritz Heimrath
Quirin Krumbholz
Adam Orlinski
Rupert Zallmann

SPIDER _ Subtraction as a measure to Preserve and Insulate historic Developments by Electric Robots

Starting point / motivation

The ambitious goals of climate protection (cf. Paris climate protection goals of 2015) must be reflected considering many aspects of life, including construction. It is widely acknowledged that the design of new buildings in an energy efficient way is only a drop in the ocean, considering the low rate of new construction. The stock must therefore be thought and treated. However, when it comes to the thermal renovation of Baukultur-significant building stock, one soon encounters limits in the application of conventional, ie "adding", principles (installation of thermal insulation panels on the outer façade). Against this background, it is significant that approximately 30% of the masonry depth of the historic solid brick masonry is not statically relevant.

Contents and goals

Based on the dramatically poor thermal resistance of the exterior walls of existing buildings, and at the time same considering the a high social and cultural relevance of maintaining ornamented historical facades, the subtraction of material seems to be the key to a tremendous energetic improvement, without destroying the appearance of these buildings. On the one hand, modern methods of analysis of force and sound propagation, on the other hand modern and easily available possibilities of robotics and the meanwhile high efficiency of photovoltaics and battery technology, allow to explore a concept that investigates a fully automatic, purely solar-powered refurbishment

The aim is to develop a renovation system that is not only in the result, but already in the construction phase highly ecological and highly economical.


1. Exact investigation of the historical masonry structure and its functions

2. Determination of the overall potential for improvement (energy, CO2, etc) compared to conventional methods of remediation

3. Literature research and expert interviews

4. thermal and static simulation based on 1st, 2nd and 3rd

5. Determination of strategies of the movements of facade robots based on 4.

6. Test Drilling and Test Runs

7. Evaluation and analysis

Expected results

The research project SPIDER pursues a path deviating from conventional research and development processes. A radically alternative concept (subtractive rather than additive construction) is double-checked on its feasibility but above all on its potential. If it is possible to show that the investigated concept is feasible and sufficiently efficient regarding the reduction of thermal conductivity, the path to industrial development is opened with the prospect of a national or European-wide patent. With other partners, the founding of a spin-off / start-up can then be considered.

Bernhard Sommer
Malgorzata Sommer-Nawara
Galo Moncayo

Peter Bauer / TU Wien / Institut für Architekturwissenschaften
Ardeshir Mahdavi / TU Wien / Institut für Architekturwissenschaften
Ulrich Pont / TU Wien / Institut für Architekturwissenschaften