In The Shop: Lift By Patten Studio.

A Dynamic Light Fixture, Animated by Live Stimuli.

From a distance, Lift by Patten Studio resembles a delicate glowing centipede. Currently installed in the Shop at A/D/O, the active light fixture is composed of 24 geometric "petals" that flank, in pairs, a mechanical spine. Triggered by thermal sensors, these petals flutter and ripple in response to activity, calming or becoming more agitated relative to the motion around them.

James Patten, the designer of Lift, is a graduate of MIT Media Lab where he studied with Hiroshi Ishii. His projects explore the potential of computation and interaction to be thought of as varieties of a design material, like glass or steel. Lift’s combination of mechanical pliancy and sensitivity to its environment is a marriage of materials and processed inputs.

The sinuous skeletal motion that animates the installation is a product of this combination. Each of its 24 illuminated panels is tethered to the spine with the shape memory alloy nitinol, also known as "muscle wire," an emerging technology as of yet rarely seen outside of experimental medical devices. Electrical charges triggered by its motion sensors heat the nitinol ligaments, causing them to contract, smoothly drawing the petals up in gentle, undulating rhythm.

Its completely motorless system of actuators gives Lift its uncannily fluid, organic motion. Patten Studio has hypothesized that, instead of thermal sensors, the installation could be activated by any stimulus: web traffic, for instance, or a building’s real-time energy usage. A sequence of the fixtures, in any combination of length and petal shape, could be orchestrated to any program of complex input mappings. Patten sees this as a suggestion of how new products might expand the vocabulary of design. "It introduces a playful interactivity into an otherwise inanimate object," he said. "Which opens new possibilities for how we experience the spaces where we live and work.”