Open Source Architecture Workshop

Doors of Perception 8, New Delhi, 18-20 March 2005

The workshop ended on March 20, 2005.

For information and images of the event, please click here.

Below is the brief as originally provided to the participants.

The workshop described here will focus on using low-tech materials (e.g. garbage bags to create inflatables), encouraging the user-as-creative-participant and reappropriating existing devices (e.g. umbrellas and desk fans) to create choreographies of interaction.



One way of thinking about the design of space is to consider it as an "operating system". Just as computers are a combination of "hardware" (the physical box, chips and keyboard) and "software" (the codes and programmes that bring the box to life) so too can architecture be considered as a combination of hard stuff (the walls, roofs and floors) and soft stuff (the smells, sounds, thermal and social phenomena that animate a space).

We can stretch the analogy of "operating system" a little further. In computers there are different kinds of operating system, ranging from Windows, thru Mac and Unix to Linux. These operating systems differ not only in having different features and interfaces, they are also based on different ideas of openness. Linux is a type of operating system that falls under the category of "open source" - unlike other operating systems, the source code at the heart of the Linux system is open to anyone to view, modify and upgrade as necessary, with the requirement that any such revisions be equally "open" and available to all. This metaphor suggests territory that might be interesting explore in the production of space. To apply such a notion of "openness" to the design of a "spatial" operating system requires two main strategies. The first is that the space in question must somehow be open to all to be interpreted, inhabited, appropriated and redesigned. The second is that the tools for making these interpretations, inhabitations, appropriations and redesigns must be equally open.

Such a space is designed to encourage the interactions of its occupants and is only truly given meaning when people take an active role in configuring the space.

  • Relevance for architects and designers


    Part 1 - Experiments with low-tech

    Part 2 - Reappropriating existing devices

    Part 3 - Choreographies of interaction



  • Relevance for architects and designers

    Designers and architects who want to experiment with such concepts as interactive spaces and responsive systems, particularly on large, urban-scale projects, are often prevented from doing so because of the complexity, logistics or costs involved with such systems. Prototype research seems prohibitively expensive and the most interesting concepts and approaches often remain on the drafting board until a suitable client/investor/sponsor is found. Alternative channels for development need to be found; a solution is at the heart of open source architecture: the combination of reusability, open choreography and "low-tech".

    Architects and designers don't necessarily need the precision and accuracy that scientists usually do in order to explore the poetries of interaction. They therefore often do not require such sophisticated equipment in order to develop truly interesting interactive projects. They work well with the "making-the-best-of-what-we-have" approach, using artifacts at hand, and are comfortable with the idea of "hacking" existing technology (in the sense of taking it apart to understand how it works and putting it back together again, usually with improvements). In this way, it is possible to design interfaces, sensors, bio-feedback devices and actuators all using relatively simple technology that might even already exist in people's homes. In particular, inexpensive remote control toys are these days ripe for dismantling and reworking; kids walkie-talkies can be used to set up a simple wireless network; energy source for a simple interactive device could be generated from the movements and footsteps of people within a space.

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