Open Burble

Commissioned by the Singapore Biennale 2006; premiere September 1, 2006.

bur.ble n.: 1. A gurgling or bubbling sound, as of running water. 2. A rapid, excited flow of speech. 3. A separation in the boundary layer of fluid about a moving streamlined body, such as the wing of an airplane, causing a breakdown in the smooth flow of fluid and resulting in turbulence.

In Open Burble, members of the public come together to compose, assemble and control an immense rippling, glowing, bustling 'Burble' that sways in the evening sky, in response to the crowd interacting below. This massive structure, the form of which the public has themselves designed, exists at such a large scale that it is able to compete visually in an urban context with the skyscrapers that surround it.

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Photos from the Singapore Biennale, 2006, by Engkiat Tan and others

The Burble, soaring upwards like a plume of smoke, is constructed from a set of 140 modular and configurable carbon-fibre units approx. 2m in diameter. Each unit is supported by 7 extra-large helium balloons (for a total of about 1000 individual pixels) which contain sensors, LEDs and microcontrollers, enabling balloons and units to co-ordinate and create patterns of colour that ripple up towards the sky.

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Just as the participants are the composers of the Burble's tall form, so too are they the ones to control it. They hold on to it using handles with which they may position the Burble as they like. They may curve in on themselves, or pull it in a straight line - the form is a combination of the crowd's desires and the impact of wind currents varying throughout the height of the Burble.

The Burble moves, rustles, tangles, folds in on itself and creates turbulence as the wind catches it like a sail. Suddenly, the entire construction ignites with colour, sparkling in the evening sky.

As people on the ground shake and pump the handle bars of the Burble, they see their movements echoed as colours through the entire system. They see their own individual fragments, perhaps even identifying design choices they have made. Their invididual contributions become an integral part of a spectacular, ephemeral experience many times their size that they have come together to produce.

Part installation, part performance -- for the design and assembly by the public is as much a part of the project as the actual flying is -- the Burble enables people to contribute at an urban scale to a structure that occupies their city, albeit for only one night.

More images are available here.

Video documentation, Quicktime: 8 mins, 320x240, 16 Mb file

Video documentation extract, Quicktime: 30 secs,640x480, 4 Mb file

Project development

Simulations and visualisations:

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Core team consisted of:
Usman Haque (architect); Rolf Pixley (algorithmist and chromodynamicist); Kei Hasegawa (detail designer); Fred Guttfield (detail designer); Seth Garlock (B2B network, balloon hardware design); Susan Haque (logistics); Ai Hasegawa (field overseer)

Site support:
Graham Northmore (inflation support); Tim Greatrex (project assistant); Mark Ng (project assistant)

Burble structure production and testing (London):
Elliot Payne, Andrey Skobaro, Alejandra Londoľo, Keila Dias, Fatma Baydin, Ilya Bergunov, Sakiko Enyo, Burul Sultanova, Thomas Banoviis, Ching-Yi Tsai, Joana Carbo, Daniela Viggiani, Graziela Gimenes, Huseyin Ogel, Charlotte Ferguson, Martina Gradish, Cleiton Lima, Honorata Szambos, Dmitry Denisyuk

Assembly and preparation team (Singapore):
Andrew Finlay, (Volunteer Program Manager, NAC) and many volunteers, including Liyana Nurhuda, Lisa Shedd, Charmaine Seah, Ng Xue Ying, Lim Sze Min, Ong Wei Keung, Lim Xin Yi, Si Si Yag, Mary-Anne Chua, Amy Park, Ephraim Loy, Charlene Haridas, Daniel Tay, May Ling Fong, May Lan Fong, Annette Chua, Rachel, Eunice, Johnson, as well as dozens of others whose names we don't have on record. Thank you to all! (Please contact us if you were part of the team and we haven't included your name). Also thank you to Michelle Tan who managed local production for the event!

Technical details

The Burble is constructed from:

The handle bar, which controls the Burble consists of:

November 2013: Please note that Haque Design + Research is now Umbrellium, where more up-to-date information can be found Umbrellium