Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson
Reader in Design Computation, Co-Director of ARC (Architectural Research Collaborative) and Director MSc In Experimental Architecture
- Email: email@example.com
- Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5926
- Personal Website: www.synbio.construction
- Address: School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
The trajectory of my research and teaching to date has been underpinned by a conviction that architectural design theory and practice have a significant contribution to make to contexts beyond the built environment. Through the development of core research programs in technology and scientific areas such as Synthetic Biology, my aim is to develop a rigorous intellectual engagement with new types of material systems and practices.
I am Co-Director (with Katie Lloyd Thomas) of ARC (The Architectural Research Collaborative) and and Editor for ARQ (Cambridge University Press - Architectural Research Quarterly). I have published more than 30 peer reviewed publications including the book The Architecture of Information (Routledge 2011) and received more than £700,000 in research income working on projects which span architectural design and digital technologies. My research group Synbio Construction is the basis form both my research and teaching and more information can be found here.
I am always keen to talk to promising prospective PhD students in areas of Architectural Design and Computation and Architecture and Synthetic Biology. I have a particular interest in design and emergence through computational and biological systems.
I also run a University service called Data Portraits which uses data visualisation to map websites and generate printed artworks. The work is featured here and has been publicised in Wired, BBC News, Fast Company, The Telegraph and National Geographic.
My main interests lie in the relationship between architectural design and computation in two specific areas:
Through studying the relationship between the design and engineering of biological systems and material practices in architecture and other fields of design. Specifically this has involved collaborating with Molecular Biologists, Computer Scientists, Materials Scientists and Experimental Anatomists on morphogenesis and biomineralization with the aim of exploring new material possibilities for architecture. To this end I have also been an advisor for Newcastle University’s iGEM (international genetically engineered machines competition) team am a member of the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Bioexploration.
Through the study and development of ‘architectonic systems’ which can, in contrast to ‘linguistic systems’, be see as the way in which the spatial environment and our articulation of it are used to communicate information. My research examines the broad culture of architecture and knowledge representation from mnemonic architecture through to the origins of storehouses of knowledge such as museums and libraries and I apply this knowledge to the design of computational systems, whether hardware or software, which use space (physical and virtual) as a way of articulating information and knowledge.
I am the PI for the EPSRC funded project Computational Colloids (EP/N005791/1). This project investigates how Civil Engineering may be integrated with the emerging field of Synthetic Biology. Combining these fields has potentially transformative implications for both and may generate a new field of Engineering Design.
Imagine a column of sand saturated with billions of engineered bacteria cells. As a force is applied to the top of the column, bacteria in the sand detect an increase in pressure. The bacteria respond by synthesising a new biological material to bind the grains together and resisting the load. The resulting structure would consist of a material where sand grains are only cemented where the forces through the material require.We are building a proof of concept to show how we might design a manufacturing process where the material itself acts as manufacturer and designer, modelling and responding to its environment. Such a technology would push well beyond the current state of the art and challenge a new generation of engineering designers to think at multiple scales from molecular to the built environment and to anticipate civil engineering with living organisms.
Bacilla Spore Actuators
When conditions are not favourable for their growth (i.e. there is a lack of nutrients) some types of bacteria cells are capable of entering ‘spore’ form. This is a state in which their metabolism is almost entirely shut down and they are no longer technically alive. Spores can remain stable for hundreds of years and (some have speculated thousands of years) and are very robust and they preserve the DNA of the organism in challenging times. However as soon as the conditions are right they are able to convert back to living and viable cells. Spores are interesting to us as architectural designers for two reasons:
1 Spores encompass the idea of a system which is dynamic and responsive to its environmental context – optimised for its energy and nutrient conditions. Something that we often strive to achieve in architecture through the use of dynamic actuated and responsive systems but something which we are unable to do with such elegance.
2 Bacteria sores themselves may also offer the direction for a new architectural technology.
Very recent research has shown that bacteria spores combined with an elastomer like material can be used create very powerful hydromorphic material. Hydromorphic materials can respond to changes in humidity by changing shape. There are a number of hygromorphic materials and most work by combining two layers – which have separate rates of expansion in the presence of moisture. As one layer expands it forces the other layer to change its shape causing the material to bend. In architecture there has been experimentation with timber based hygromorphic materials but, as yet, the bacteria based hygromorphic materials have not been considered by architectural designers.
We have begun to experiment with the basic materials and configurations of Bacilla Spore actuators and, through a Stage 3 (3rd Year Undergraduate) studio begun to work with mechanism that may translate the power the hydromorphic material to mechanisms which may form parts of a dynamic building skin.
Past Funded Projects
- 2010-2013 £1.4 million pound EPSRC funded project called PATINA (Personal Architectonics through Interactions with Artefacts) which builds on the ideas developed in The Architecture of Information by examining the relationship between physical and digital research spaces.
- 2012 EPSRC (Impact Award, Internally Allocated): £42,854 I was a Co-investigator for ‘Enabling Simple Public Voting and Consultation in Local Communities’, a project to extend an existing research project to develop a mobile voting system for Newcastle Council in the context of their ‘U-Decide’ program. The project is also in collaboration with the polling company YouGov. I act as a design adviser on the project.
- Faculty REF Fund: £2,370 Small faculty grant to support the creation of my research group and to develop the PATINA project proposal (described above).
- 2010 - 2013 European 7th Framework (Marie Curie Program): £190,200 I am a Co-Investigator, in collaboration with Philips Research and Newcastle University School of Computing, on a project entitled Balance@Home which aims to help in the development of intelligent environments for healthy living. The income supports the employment of two post-doctoral reserachers based in computing.
- 2003 - 2006 AHRC PhD. Studentship: approx. £45,000 Funded fees and living expenses for a three year PhD. entitled ‘Information Architecture in Screen Based Semantic Spaces’.
- 2002 AHRC Masters Studentship: approx. £15,000 Funded fees and living expenses for a one year MPhil degree in ‘Architecture and the Moving Image’.Industrial Relevance
- My research involves the design of digital artefacts and systems and, as such I have collaborated with companies including Microsoft Research and Philips Research.
I am currently Director of the MSc in Experimental Architecture. This has involved creating a new curriculum and three new modules:
Current Teaching for 2015-2016
ARC8028 Programming for Design
Introducing students to the principles and practices of software creation in design with a particular emphasis on creative application through the use of programming environments such as Processing and Grasshopper.
ARC8082 Research through Design
A research methods course based on using design as part of a research methodology. The course will include a spectrum of topics from material practice in scientific experiments to experimental practices in creative arts.
Stage 3 Studio: Experimental Architecture
ARC1001 Stage 1 Design (Module Leader)
ARC8068 Linked Research Project (Project Leader)
Developed a Stage 5/6 research studio based on the theme of Architecture and Interaction Design
Additionally I have been a guest tutor and reviewer for projects throughout the undergraduate and graduate design programs and a dissertation supervisor. I have also been nominated by my students for two Student Union led university wide awards for teaching innovation.
ARC8015 Architecture in the Information Age (Module Leader)
Lecture and seminar based module for Stage 5 and other post graduate students on principles and philosophies of architecture in the age of digital methods and media.
ARC8027 Interactive Space Design (Module Leader)
Masters level design based module for Stage 5 and other post graduate students introducing the foundations of interaction design in architectural and urban contexts.
Stage 1 project module (BA Architectural Studies) introducing core skills in Computer Aided Design and digital media as well as graphic design and communication.
Stage 6 Studio: Architecture and Synthetic Biology
Complete PhD supervision as primary supervisor:
- Dr. Reham Abdelatif – Design Reviews in Second Life – Completed June 2012
- Abdelatif El-Allous – The urban effects of digitisation of municipal services in Tripoli (to complete September 2016)
Ongoing PhD supervisions as primary supervisor:
- Luis Hernandez – Architectural tether objects in physical interactions with digital technologies (to complete 2016)
- Carolina Figueroa – Synthetic morphologies in architecture (to complete 2016)
- Javier Rodriguez Corral - Computational Colloids (to complete in 2019)
PhD examined as an internal examiner:
- Dr Islam Abohela – Effects of Roof Shape, Wind Direction and Building Height on the Position of Roof Mounted Wind Turbines.
- Dr Amina Batagaraw – Assessing the Thermal Performance of Phase Change Materials in Composite Humid/Hot Dry Climates: An examination of office buildings in Abuja – Nigeria.
- Hernan L, Dade-Robertson M. Atmospheres of digital technology: wireless spectres and ghosts outside the machine. Digital Creativity 2016, 27(3), 214-233.
- Ramirez-Figueroa C, Hernan L, Gnyet A, Dade-Robertson M. Bacterial Hygromorphs: Experiments into the integration of soft technologies into building skins. In: ACADIA 2016 - Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers and Cognitive Machines. 2016, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture.
- Dade-Robertson M. Building Science: Synthetic Biology and emerging technologies in architectural research. Architectural Research Quarterly 2016, 20(01), 5-8.
- Dade-Robertson M. Building Science: Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies in Architectural Research. In: Living Architectural Systems Group: White Papers. Cambridge, Ontario: Riverside Architectural Press, 2016, pp.143-152.
- Dade-Robertson M, Corral J, Mitrani H, Zhang M, Wipat A, Ramirez-Figueroa C, Hernan L. Thinking Soils: A synthetic biology approach to material based design computation. In: ACADIA 2016 - Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers and Cognitive Machines. 2016, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture.
- Crivellaro C, Comber R, Dade-Robertson M, Bowen S, Wright P, Olivier P. Contesting the City: Enacting the political through digitally supported urban walks. In: CHI 2015 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2015, Seoul, South Korea: ACM Press.
- Dade-Robertson M, Figueroa C, Zhang M. Material Ecologies for Synthetic Biology: Biomineralization and the State Space of Design. Computer-Aided Design 2015, 60, 28-39.
- Hernan L, Dade-Robertson M. Of wireless and bodies: affective atmospheres in the smart city. In: Mediacity 5 International Conference and Exhibition. 2015, Plymouth, UK.
- Balaam M, Davies R, Dade-Robertson M, Fraser M. “It usually takes three of us, a few beers and a lot of imagination”: A qualitative exploration of what it means and takes to do research. In: BITE: Receipts for Remarkable Research. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense, 2014, pp.14-24.
- Chen Ko-le, Dörk M, Dade-Robertson M. Exploring the Promises and Potentials of Visual Archive Interfaces. In: 9th Annual iConference. 2014, Berlin, Germany.
- Dörk M, Comber R, Dade-Robertson M. Monadic Exploration: Seeing the Whole Through Its Parts. In: Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2014, Toronto, Canada: ACM.
- Dade-Robertson M, Ramirez-Figueroa C, Zhang M. Radical Vernacular: Bacterial Architecture on Mars. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 2014, 67(7), 213-217.
- Ramirez-Figueroa C, Dade-Robertson M. Adaptive Morphologies: Toward a Morphogenesis of Material Construction. In: ARCADIA 2013: Adaptive Architecture ; proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture. 2013, Cambridge, Ontario: Riverside Architectural Press.
- Dade-Robertson M. Architectural User Interfaces: Themes, Trends and Directions in the Evolution of Architectural Design and Human Computer Interaction. International Journal of Architectural Computing 2013, 11(1), 1-20.
- Schofield T, Dörk M, Dade-Robertson M. Indexicality and visualization: exploring analogies with art, cinema and photography. In: 9th ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition. 2013, Sydney, Australia: ACM.
- Hernan L, Dade-Robertson M. Making Hertzian Space Tangible for Adaptive Architecture. In: ACADIA 2013: Adaptive Architecture. 2013, Ontario, Canada.
- Dade-Robertson M, Zhang M, Figueroa C, Hernan L, Beattie J, Lyon A, Ryden M, Welford M. Proto-materials: Material Practices in Architecture at Molecular and Cellular Scales. In: Michael Stacey, ed. Prototyping Architecture: The Conference Papers. London: Building Centre Trust, 2013, pp.211-223.
- Ramirez-Figuera C, Dade-Robertson M, Zhang M. Synthetic Biology as Material Design Practice. In: Praxis and Poetics: Research Through Design Conference. 2013, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle upon Tyne: Northumbria University.
- Dade-Robertson M, Schofield T. Macroscope and WikiVis: Two examples of data visualization inspired by material research practice. In: Digital Research. 2012, Oxford, UK.
- Fraser M, Bennet P, Knibbe J, Davies R, Dade-Robertson M, Earl G. Making Time: Defining Rythms in Archaeological Research. In: Digital Futures. 2012, Aberdeen, UK.
- Hernan L, Dade-Robertson M, Schofield T. Material Macroscope: Merging digital and physical research spaces through interaction with research objects. In: Digital Research. 2012, Oxford, UK.
- Ramirez-Figuera C, Dade-Robertson M. Recombinatorial personal spaces of knowledge. In: Digital Research. 2012, Oxford, UK.
- Dade-Robertson M. The Architecture of Information. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 2012, 39(1), 14-16.
- Dade-Robertson M, Taylor N, Marshall J, Olivier P. The Political Sensorium. In: 4th Media Architecture Biennale Conference: Participation (MAB). 2012, Aarhus, Denmark: ACM Press.
- Dade-Robertson M. 'The web is not a tree': information architecture and the navigational topology of the World Wide Web. Environment and Planning B: Planning & Design 2011, 38(1), 129-141.
- Fraser M, Boddington A, Dade-Robertson M, Davies R, Earl G, Jones M, Moreau L. Personal Architectonics through Interactions with Artefacts. In: Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archeology. 2011, Beijing, China.
- Dade-Robertson M. The Architecture of Information: Architecture, Interaction Design and the Patterning of Digital Information. London: Routledge, 2011.
- Fraser M, Boddington A, Dade-Robertson M, Davies R, Earl G, Jones M, Moreau L. PATINA: Personal Architectonics of INteractions with Artefacts. In: Digital Futures. 2010, Crowne Plaza, Nottingham, UK.
- Norman SJ, Lawson SEM, Olivier P, Watson P, Chan AMA, Dade-Robertson M, Dunphy P, Green D, Hiden H, Hook J, Jackson DG. AMUC: Associated Motion Capture User Categories. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 2009, 367(1898), 2771-2780.
- Koleva B, Greenhalgh K, Glover H, Schnadelbach S, Egglestone A, Hampshire S, Benford S, Dade-Robertson M. Supporting the Creation of Hybrid Museum Experiences. In: Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2009, Boston, MA, USA: ACM.
- Norman SJ, Lawson S, Olivier P, Watson P, Chan A, Dade-Robertson M, Dunphy P, Green D, Hiden H, Hook J, Jackson D. Data Services for Associated Motion Capture User Categories. AHRC/EPSRC E-Science Demonstrator EP/E005624/1. AHESSC website: Newcastle University, 2007. AHRC/EPSRC E-Science Demonstrator EP/E005624/1.
- Dade-Robertson M. Visual Scenario Representation in the Context of a Tool for Interactive Storytelling. In: International Conference on Virtual Storytelling. 2007, Saint-Malo, France.
- Dade-Robertson M. Visual scenario representation in the context of a tool for interactive storytelling. In: Virtual storytelling: using virtual reality technologies for storytelling. 2007, St Malo, France: Springer.
- Dade-Robertson M. Digital Mnemonics. Digital Creativity 2005, 15(1), 57-62.