Here’s an interesting architecture-meets-horticulture analogy. If consumers are bees and shops are plants, then shop windows are the pretty flowers that aim to attract our attention and draw us in. At least that’s the thinking behind the latest installation to be unveiled at of London’s Selfridges. “The Apifera is a responsive window that takes inspiration from the science of attraction developed in flowers,” explains its designer Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, “hence the complex fractal geometry and the work’s ability to respond and change its breathing rate according to the daylight and passersby”…
Behind the impressive collage of meticulously folder blue paper is a micro-controller running an Arduino program (a physical computing platform that is used to create stand-alone interactive objects) and an array of computer fans that generate the artwork’s movement.
According to Plummer-Fernandez’s blog, the flower-like shop window is “the part of a larger organism that is responsible for attracting other living species for its survival. Flowers have perfected the art of attraction by stimulating its target’s sense of sight, smell, touch and taste. With this in mind I adopted design traits from flowers such as the fractal geometry that gives the window its complex form.
“Research into ‘phyllotaxis’ (the arrangement of florets) was key to solving the shape, followed by the calculation of folding templates for all 169 segments. Rebecca Lucraft of MA textiles at the Royal College of Art is the talented person who had the patience and paper craft skill to produce the individual segments over a month of full-time production. She also has a thorough understanding and experience in shop window production.
“I also wanted to make the window as dynamic and ‘alive’ as possible so the whole structure pulsates in a natural motion aided by a sequence of fans. This motion is dependent on daylight and passersby as the Apifera reads and analyses changes in light using LDRs [Light Dependent Resistors]. The expected behaviour is that of an excited and active shop window during the day and the most busy-periods, and a passive window at night when it needs to conserve energy.
“The Apifera can also self-adjust its sensitivity to stimulation. For example, if no one has passed the window for ages it will behave extra alert and excited when someone finally does approach it. Vice versa, if the window has regular stimulation from passers-by it will become harder to excite. This self-adjusting sensitivity gives it a more controlled and life-like behaviour – for instance, us humans will detect and react to a bad smell instantly, but after a while we stop smelling it as we no longer need to be alert to its presence.”
Installation the Apifera took three night shifts, working 10pm until 6.30am, during which time Matthew also enlisted the help of his younger brother Nicholas.
The window will remain on the Duke Street side of the shop until the end of October.
Window concept, electronics and programming by Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, production by MP-F, Rebecca Lucraft (who did the papercraft) and Nicholas Plummer-Fernandez.
More at plummerfernandez.com.