behavioural enviro[NN]ments

Autonomous, hyper adaptive and responsive buildings and environments have been a topic of obsession for many designers and architects since the 1960s. Nicholas Negroponte envisioned a system that enables an architect to create an intelligence to design the building themselves. Within the Architecture Machine Group at MIT, they created The ‘Seek’, a computer-controlled landscape environment full of small blocks which were inhabited by gerbils.

It was the task of the machine to analyse the variation between reality and virtual models with the responsibility of keeping the original plan intact if possible, which was then used to predict the future behaviour of the gerbils. Unfortunately however, the system was not successful, due to an unclear criteria and high number of permutations in variables of disruptions and behaviour.

The cluster will revisit the project, incorporating modern advancements in Machine learning algorithms and techniques to transform our own version of the dynamic environment itself into a neural network. The environment, in an attempt to predict the occupancy behaviour and usage pattern preferences of gerbils, will utilise reinforcement functions based on movement(navigational) patterns and spatial usage. The final aim is to create a landscape that would best suit the daily behaviour or activities of the small animal subjects.

cluster champions


Sam Conrad Joyce is an Assistant Professor in Architecture and Sustainable Design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Prior to this he was an Associate at Foster + Partners, in the Applied Research and Development group leading structural integration. He was also a Design Systems Analyst at Buro Happold working on geometrical, structural and masterplanning projects.

His doctoral studies focus on computation for integrated architectural and engineering design, focussing on professional practice. Aiming to develop data rich systems for effective design space exploration and executive decision making. To enable this his work synthesizes and applies new techniques in distributed and scalable computing, multi-objective optimisation, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and web based visualisation.


Jonathan Irawan is a Computational Designer at Hassell Studio. Having recently graduated from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, he specialises on the research based and experimental aspects of Architecture. His research focus revolves around highly responsive and adaptive systems, based on behavioural analysis and simulation, centered towards the relationship and interactivity between space, object/ architecture and their respective social agencies.

He has previously worked and gained experience in multidisciplinary projects within Asia and Australia. His mission lies in bridging the gap in design technology research between academia and industry implementation, constantly experimenting and prototyping to augment the design process.


Kate Jeffery is a Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience and Wellcome Trust Investigator at UCL, where she heads the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience. Her research interests focus on the hippocampal spatial memory system. She is also co-director of the electrophysiology company Axona Ltd. and was recently elected to the Council of the Royal Institute of Navigation. She is currently engaged in linking the neuroscience of navigation to real-world situations, via several collaborations with artists and architects.