Sosolimited Unveils ‘Diffusion Choir,’ Stunning Kinetic Sculpture that Simulates Movement of A Flock of Birds to Inspire Calmness and Collaboration

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Unique artwork--commissioned by BioMed Realty and housed in the atrium of its 650 East Kendall Street building in Cambridge, Mass.--is made up of 400 folding elements controlled by custom software running a ‘flocking’ algorithm

'Diffusion Choir,' a stunning kinetic sculpture that simulates a flock of birds. Commissioned by BioMed Realty, and designed by Sosolimited, Hypersonic and Plebian Design.

Sosolimited, a leading design and technology studio, today unveiled ‘Diffusion Choir,’ a stunning kinetic sculpture that uses 400 folding elements to simulate the movement of a flock of birds, instantly capture the mind and eyes of every visitor, and enhance the spirit of collaboration. The unique structure--which hangs in the atrium of a biopharmaceutical company’s building at 650 East Kendall Street in Cambridge, MA--was commissioned by BioMed Realty, which owns and manages the property. Sosolimited partnered with Plebian Design and Hypersonic to design, program and fabricate artwork.

“As a team, we’re really proud of this work. The pieces came together organically to create something more kinetic and sophisticated than anything we’ve done before,” said Eric Gunther, co-founder of Sosolimited. “The movements are spontaneous yet controlled, the flow is gentle yet unmistakeable, and the overall effect is both contemplative and thought-provoking. It’s a unique experience.”

The Experience
As the name suggests, the sculpture conjures a community of living beings breathing in harmony. To ensure seamless movement, custom software works behind the scenes to communicate with each individual element and create continuous movements, simulating the actions of a flock of birds in flight. Over each hour, smaller groups coalesce into a single formation, soaring through the air in fluid collaboration. At the quarter hours, the birds gather and perform choreographed gestures across the sculpture. The graceful movements create an open, contemplative space for any passerby to enjoy. The sculpture reflects the collaborative spirit and innovative work of the building’s tenants.

“Just as with many of our projects, our diverse backgrounds -- in robotics, physics, art/design, engineering, architecture and computer programming -- drove the spirit of collaboration that was vital to developing this work,” said Bill Washabaugh, founder of Hypersonic. “From testing 20 different types of paper, to designing the intricate folding geometry of origami structure, to building highly specific engineering solutions to ensure that the sculpture is fully accessible, this was truly a team effort.”

How It Works
From conceptualization to installation, Sosolimited, Hypersonic and Plebian Design used a range of design, engineering, art and technology skills to create an unforgettable experience for the viewer. A small sampling of the details:

  • The 400 paper-like elements were developed from Tyvek fabric, high-density polyethylene that’s durable enough to withstand the UV light that fills the atrium, and can be folded into precise configurations.
  • A Mac Pro runs custom software that simulates an invisible flock of birds flying around the atrium. As the birds virtually fly through the area, they cause the sculptural elements to individually open and close via the software.
  • Copper cables run from the computer to the atrium ceiling, then down to the sculpture frame, simultaneously supporting it structurally and electronically.
  • Each element has a custom circuit board that is programmed to constantly listen to the network for its address call and open/close amount, and they move as they are called, 10 times per second. A stepper motor moves a set of six arms that opens and closes the Tyvek fabric.
  • The entire structural frame is set on electric winches to slide up and down and back and forth, offering easy access for maintenance.

“Everyone who sees the artwork pauses and quietly contemplates the movement,” said Plebian founder Jeff Lieberman. “We are pleased that all this complex technology and engineering could come together to create a quiet moment of beauty for busy people.”

Early on, the designers and BioMed Realty established a goal to have the artwork preserve the existing aesthetics of the atrium, including the natural sunlight, open space and sight lines while focusing on a narrative about collaboration.

“We’re dedicated to community participation, and strong supporters of the Boston arts community,” said Salvatore Zinno, director of leasing and development at BioMed Realty. “Our goal was to create a unique visual presence in the atrium that would enhance the spirit of collaboration and also become an attraction in itself, and ‘Diffusion Choir’ has surpassed even our lofty expectations. We’re pleased to have succeeded in bringing together a team of talented and creative professionals who understood our vision and delivered a breath-taking work of art.”

Sosolimited, Hypersonic and Plebian Design have previously worked on several computational sculptures, including Patterned by Nature at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Global Data Chandelier at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Baccarat Harcourt Wall at the Baccarat Hotel New York.

“We work with companies in many different fields, from pharma to finance, but our core mission is always the same: to translate data into something beautiful, and inspire wonder.” says Gunther.

About Sosolimited
Sosolimited is a design and technology studio based in Boston, MA that creates data and technology driven experiences that engage and inspire people. Founded by three MIT graduates they blend their backgrounds in physics, computer science, architecture, arts and music to imagine and build the new for clients looking to achieve distinction and engage audiences with memorable work. Sosolimited has worked with clients, including Twitter, Google, VICE, Porche, IBM and Boston Properties, and their work has been recognized by The Art Directors Club, Cannes Lions, as well as exhibited internationally at the Walker Art Center, Smithsonian Design Museum and the Shanghai Biennial.

About Plebian Design
Plebian Design is a design firm based in Cambridge, MA that’s focused on understanding the potential of humans and explores how technology can connect us, instead of separating us, and the future consilience of science and spirit. Founder Jeff Lieberman is also the creator behind the successful Kickstarter campaign ‘Slow Dance, a frame that slows down time.’ He hosted 'Time Warp' on the Discovery Channel, composes music in the duo Knolls, and builds kinetic sculptures. He holds four degrees from MIT (Physics, Math, Mech. Eng., Media Arts + Sciences) and his work can be seen at http://bea.st .

About Hypersonic
Hypersonic is a collaborative studio based in New York City blending art, design, engineering, and technology to create physically engrossing sculptures and interactive experiences. The company was founded by Bill Washabaugh who is an artist, designer, and aerospace engineer. Bill has designed airplane systems for Boeing, a moving stage show for U2, a full sized transforming robot car for Citroen, and many award-winning static and kinetic sculptures.

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