The Light Creature

Estudio Guto Requena


São Paulo, 2015.

The new facade of the Hotel WZ Jardins by Estúdio Guto Requena is a research project that explores the "Hacked City" and how we can bring positive changes to cities, their public spaces and architecture by plugging in poetic and functional systems that encourage changes in realtime that are impromptu, collaborative and affordable.

Originally built in the 1970´s, the Hotel WZ Jardins in São Paulo, Brazil, has recently been retrofitted. The new facade was designed by Guto Requena as a work of urban art and a 30-story intervention that is visible both day and night.

In the daytime, a coat of sheet metal creates a pixelated skin in blue, gray and gold. This urban camouflage was designed from the analysis of on-site ambient noise by using parametric software. The result is a visual reflection of the soundscape of São Paulo´s iconic Avendina Rebouças.
At night, the metal skin is illuminated by interactive light patterns. 

This "luminous creature" inhabits the hotel's facade and displays its unique behavior by reacting in realtime to different stimuli. Sensors installed on the building collect sounds that affect the creature´s form and movement. Other sensors measure air quality and change the color accordingly. A mobile phone application allows anyone to directly interact with this luminous creature by voice or by finger taps.


The design brief required us to wrap the original structure with a system of metal sheets, thus renewing its architecture. Then, with the assistance of a computer, we clothed the building with a colorful graphic pattern based on a 24-hour soundscape recorded at various points around the hotel's third floor.

Then we generated the building's digital model together with the peaks and valleys of the audio file four times, thus representing four periods of the day: morning, afternoon, evening and night. With the help of Grasshopper parametric software, the various sound volumes control the position of each metal sheet. Peak audio levels define the position of the gold sheet, moderate, the navy blue, quiet, the light blue, and silence, grey. A pixelated camouflage results that visually reflects the soundscape of the Avenida Rebouças, one of São Paulo´s busiest.


At dusk the metal skin is lit with 200 strips of low energy LED lighting that give life to the luminous creature and create an interactive dynamic with the city and its inhabitants.

This creature behaves on its own, reacting in realtime to environmental stimuli and people. Ambient noise directly affects the creature´s form and motion via microphones installed on the building. Local air quality changes its colors through another group of sensors. Polluted air gives the creature warmer tones such as reds and oranges. When
air quality improves, the cooler colors such as blues and greens appear.

A mobile app allows the public to interact directly with the luminous creature in two ways: through touch (via a visual dynamic inspired by the classic "Game of Life", a cellular automaton developed in the 1970s by the English mathematician John Horton Conway) and
through voice by speaking with the building, which registers sound waves on its facade. 

We hacked the original architecture by plugging in sensors, chips, microcontrollers and LED strips to make it interactive and communicative such that the facade responds to stimuli from its surroundings and invites the population of São Paulo to consider their own behavior. Sound and air quality are key data for the quality of urban landscapes in large cities.
This light installation provokes and invites reflection.

The interactive facade of the Hotel WZ Jardins reveals a future where buildings become hybrids of the real and virtual. From here on, we not only create architecture with physical matter, but also with digital. Sensors and actuators integrate with brick, glass and concrete.

Watch the Light Creature video at:

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