Motus Forma

Introduction: Motus Forma

About: Smith|Allen is a design firm based in Oakland California. Our work is interdisciplinary in focus bringing design, innovation, and novel concepts to bear on a wide range of projects. Smith|Allen brings togeth…

Motus Forma is a physicalized representation of 10 hours of life in a space. Comprised of 1306 Individual paths and hundreds of nodes each interaction in the space is chronicled and tracked. Dynamic motion is frozen into a complex network of interaction and interface.

At once a sculptural form and functional data visualization Motus Forma can be read analytically and chronologically with path density, direction, speed and time all embedded within programmed matter. The limitations of software and hardware merge with the limitations of human perception of complexity challenging the viewer to follow a trace.


Photopolymer Resin, Aluminum, Steel

Part of Smith|Allen studios' Artist in Residence at Pier 9

Step 1: Process Part 1: Data Collection

The conceptualization design and fabrication of the piece can be broken down in 3 parts. The design began with an idea of studying motion patterns through the lobby space at Pier 9. We were intrigued by the way different people move though the space and how that motion can create formal and spatial artifacts.

We needed a way to capture that data, we looked into video capture but decided that a hand study was faster and had a high enough level of accuracy.

How to conduct a motion study

After completing our motion study we had over 1300 tracks for 10 hours. We compiled them together and retraced them to get vector lines. These coupled with the layer of time gave us the data needed to begin to work with visualizing the spatial flow though time.

Step 2: Process Part 2: First Iterations of Representation

Our first analysis of the data was to complete a series of Laser-Intaglio prints. We etched each layer of analysis onto aluminum plates then used an Intaglio press to make a series of prints. In the process we found that we liked the prints the best where there was some ghosting and overlap.

To present the prints we designed a Minimal Frame that allowed the print to show through.

The idea of the framing system becoming part of the piece and the ghosting and overlap leading to a transition through the time of the prints led us to the final representation.

Step 3: Process Part 3: Motus Forma

We took the data from our motion tracks and layered it according to time. The nodes are recorded places where someone stopped for a moment. We printed the final form using the amazing Connex500s at The Pier.

Because of the fragile nature of the piece we were forced to use extensive support material resulting in days spent carefully removing the support material from the piece.

The stand was fabricated using the 5 axis OMax waterjet at the pier. We used the 5th axis to bevel cuts into .25" steel then treated it with gunblue and linseed oil for the finish. The legs and supports are waterjet cut aluminum and aluminum rods. They are designed as a counterpoint and transition from the plastic form to the metal base.

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