Alex Wilton Arole Oluwaseyi Guy Gardner Jason Johnson SSHRC

Limenitis Wall


Date: 2016
Client: Emerald Hills Sports Pavilion
Principal Investigator(s): Jason S. Johnson, Guy Gardner
Project Budget: $32,000
Research Assistants/ Project Team:  Arole Oluwaseyi, Alex Wilton
Funding Agencies: Strathcona County, SSHRC
Status: Built

The Limenitis Wall takes its inspiration from the White Admiral butterfly, Limenitis Arthemitis, a large and highly contrasting black and white species commonly found East of the Rockies. The butterfly has historically functioned as a potent symbol for the metamorphosis of the human soul. We believe this is an apt metaphor for the dynamic and transformational qualities of the Emerald Hills Sports Pavilion in Sherwood Park, a growing community in Strathcona County, Alberta.

The work is composed of hundreds of custom milled, rolled and anodized aluminum components mounted to an exterior wall facing a public plaza. The components, flatcut using a CNC router and formed by hand, are of different sizes and occupy a diagrid with varying levels of subdivision. The components are anodized in black or clear, or are left in a raw state. The colouration and subdivision are driven by a parametric definition which uses multiple layers of image mapping to create a complex visual effect, which is amplified by the curving forms and variety of sizes, colours, and finishes. The combination of these elements plays with the viewer’s pattern recognition system to activate a sense of pareidolia, a response where we project our own meanings or interpretations onto complex formations, which is exemplified by the act of seeing faces in clouds.

The various elements of the work allows it’s appearance to change with different seasons and lighting conditions, and its meaning to shift depending on the viewer’s response. These dynamic forces of transformation combine to activate the façade of the emerald hills sports pavilion and the surrounding public plaza.

Andrea Patry Kevin Spaans Matthew Parker Vera Parlac

Soft Agile Spaces

Date: 2014
Client: n/a
Principal Investigator: Vera Parlac
Collaborators: n/a
Project Budget: Withheld
Research Assistants/ Project Team: Matt Parker,
Andrea Patry, Kevin Spaans
Sponsors: University of Calgary Seed Grant
Publications:  “Material as Mechanism in Agile Spaces”, in B.Kolarevic and V. Parlac Building Dynamics: Exploring Architecture of Change, United States, Routledge, June 2015

Project Description: Soft Agile Spaces project relies on non-mechanical material-based actuation using shape memory alloy springs (SMA) that are integrated into the structural lattice of the surfaces. The movement resulting from the material-based actuation of the lattice is augmented by an inflatable soft robot surface that extends the lattice system. The network of sensors distributed throughout the surface serves to enable information exchange between the surface, environment, and people. The Soft Agile Space project proposes an adaptable and responsive building envelope capable of sensing its environment and responding to it by changing its shape or revealing small occupiable spaces to passers-by. These spaces can provide shelter or mediate the temperature of the environment, making public spaces in harsh, cold climates more vibrant.


The “intelligence” of the surface’s physical environment is capable of incorporating climate and human-related conditions into its working. By sensing the environmental temperature, the surface can mediate between the internal and external environments.


Adam Onulov Richard Cotter Todd Freeborn Vera Parlac

Soft Kinetic Grid

Date: 2011
Client: n/a
Principal Investigators: Vera Parlac
Collaborators: n/a
Project Budget: Withheld
Research Assistants/ Project Team: Richard Cotter,
Todd Freeborn, Adam Onulov
Sponsors: University of Calgary Seed Grant
Publications: “Responsive Architecture Project: “Soft” Kinetic Grid” in Project Catalog of the 31st Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA), University of Calgary, Calgary, 2011

This project is driven by an interest in adaptive systems in nature and a desire to explore the capacity of built spaces to respond dynamically and adapt to changes in the external and internal environment. The Soft Kinetic Grid project examines the capacity of the shape memory alloy to act as a point source and as a linear source of actuation of the grid. The SMA is embedded into a silicon tubing diagrid in order to test the extent and the nature of the grid movement. To better understand the gradient of movement of the actuated grid, the grid was restricted by anchoring joint points to a flat surface in a variety of configurations. Depending on the configuration, the behavior ranged from expanding cells to vertical movements of the grid’s regions. The Soft Kinetic Grid provided an important groundwork of the development of the SKiN project.

Vera Parlac

Structured Elasticity: Material Agency

Date: 2008
Client: n/a
Principal Investigator: Vera Parlac
Collaborators: n/a
Project Budget: Withheld
Research Assistants/ Project Team: n/a
Funding Agencies: n/a
Publications: “Structuring the Surface / Material Agency” in the digital proceedings book, ACSA Annual Meeting 2008 Conference: Seeking the City, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA
“Structuring the Surface” exhibited at Seams and Surfaces Exhibition, January 2008, Temple University, Tyler School of Art, Architecture Department

Structured elasticity is a series of experiments focusing on making a composite material that embodies behavior and has capacity to adapt under external influences. The composite material exploits elasticity and strategic positioning of various forms of infrastructure that facilitates the shaping of the material and its response to dynamic influence.

Two types of the composite material are developed:

  1. The constituent materials, matrix and reinforcement, have the same physical properties (elasticity). One of them is pre-stressed and induces a behavior of the other.
  2. The matrix is elastic but the reinforcement has two components, elastic and non-elastic that are not fused together and are able to perform independently. Material can be formed by manipulation of the non-elastic component of the reinforcement.

Structure, infrastructure and surface are collapsed into one system that performs by allowing each component of the reinforcement (structure and infrastructure) to behave or to be manipulated relatively independently.

The goal of the research is to blur the boundaries between form generation and materialization by unfolding innate material capacities and behaviors, as well as to test a threshold between a composite material and an architectural assembly.