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Interior weather

Interpretive architecture

The installation at the CCA is conceived as two spaces, one gallery designated as the locus of production and measurement of an "interior weather" condition, and the other as the locus of interpretation of the resultant data. The first room could be described as objective, the second as subjective. The goal is to project an architecture that is capable of indicating possible uses of space which are dictated only by the chance confluence of three climatic parameters: temperature (celsius), light intensity (lux), and relative humidity (%), so that T * lux * HR = form and function. The installation is conceived as a study to test the potential of fluctuating climatic conditions to generate new functions, and thus new architectural programmes. The proposals offered here are in no sense univocal: they represent the realm of sheer accident and possibility, one interpretation, and obviously not the only one.

Taking inspiration from the history of dwelling, in which climatic conditions have been the traditional generator of functions, we have also drawn upon ergonomic recommendations for lighting, Swiss and EU thermal guidelines, and ambient temperature levels in relation to a range of different activities and types of clothing: precise manual work, for instance, calls for bright light, while heavy physical activity suggests a cool temperature. Our three parameters are keyed to sustainability-oriented reductions in energy expenditure. Temperature, light intensity, and relative humidity are understood as the three elements of a specific equation which translates into an atmospheric or climatic condition; the combination and recombination of these three parameters suggest an infinite number of possible interior weather situations. Temperature variations define what degree of clothing is appropriate, for example naked at 28° C, light clothing at 23° C, and outdoor wear at 16° C, and thus define the subject. Variations in light intensity define the activities in which this subject might engage in this space, becoming the verbs that animate the subject. The humidity level suggests a space as complement. Each equation invents certain activities for certain subjects in certain places, however these amount to purely objective readings.

Interior geography
In the first room, space is designed as a micro-geography, as "interior weather" constantly in flux. The meteorological data fluctuate in real time, giving birth to a variety of climatic moments and situations within the spatial volume. As an abstract reproduction of the earth's movement around the sun, the room's light source moves through space, generating modifications of the other climatic parameters via the appearance of micro-lows, convection mini-phenomena, and turbulence. Some parts of the space are slightly warmer and more humid, others are cooler and more humid or cooler and less humid. A constantly evolving three-dimensional geography takes shape, with its temperate, tropical, and polar zones. Sensors distributed throughout the volume are plotted on a regular grid that is projected onto the six regular surfaces of the room, walls, floor, and ceiling. They measure variations of light intensity, relative humidity, and temperature in real time, providing a comprehensive meteorological reading of the entire space as its interior weather condition fluctuates.

These "measurements" are transmitted to the second gallery that is conceived as a space for reading and interpreting the data. Each of the coordinates (I mean, the point of measurement in the space, given by a altitude, a latitude a longitude) is analysed by a computer, which outlines a situation for it; the situations are then interpreted from different points of view: physiological, social, functional, etc. These interpretations initially draw on recognised physiological values, such as the relationship between the temperature of the space and the type of bodily activity or clothing it suggests, or between light intensity and hormonal activity. The data are then freely reinterpreted in "fictions" suggesting new spatial practices, new forms of social behaviour, and new urban and architectural forms.

The temperature influences clothing: the hotter the temperature will be, the more the inhabitants will be stripped and conversely, the colder the temperature is, the more they will be equipped. One estimates approximately towards 21°C the comfortable average for somebody of slightly equipped. Below 18°C, the inhabitants will get dressed more warmly, while above 22°C, they will start to be stripped not to be too hot. According to their activity, the inhabitants more or less produce in space steam. A deadened person produces 40 grams of steam per hour. A person in activity produces up of 150 grams per hour. To cook produce approximately 500 grams of steam in 20 minutes and to take a shower produce 800 grams of steam in 20 minutes. According to the light intensity, various activities are possible, like sleeping below 100 luxes, discussing around 500 luxes, to work above 700 luxes. The images of the screen cross these various parameters of temperature, relative humidity and light intensity according to measurements' taken in the first room and work out, in real time, scenarios of behaviors.

An "interior geography" is inferred from these readings, which together constitute an "objective" language. We might say (as did Roland Barthes in his 1954 essay "Objective Literature: Alain Robbe-Grillet") that the descriptions they generate are "only spatial and situational, and in no case analogous." Produced in a continuous present tense, the constantly changing climatic situations invoke Robbe-Grillet's 1956 summons to gestures and objects in the fictional constructs of the future, in the sense that they "are there before being something." At the risk of openly contradicting his literary method, we invited Robbe-Grillet to offer another set of subjective interpretations of the various In opposition to his own approach, we invited him to offer subjective interpretations of the various climatic situations that occur spontaneously, as if at the throw of the dice, in the space.


Jérôme Jacqmin


Alain Robbe-Grillet, École Cantonal d'Art de Lausanne (ECAL), École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne (EPFL), fabric | ch


Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA)

location, date

"Environment: Approaches for Tomorrow" curated by Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini, Montreal, Canada, 2006