Cyber-physical Urban Furniture


Year: 2021-2022
Project leader: Henriette Bier
Project team: Henriette Bier, Max Latour, Pierre Oskam, Vera Laszlo and MSc students
Collaborators / Partners:  PoliMi (Margherita Pillan), UniFri (Hamed Alavi and Denis Lalanne), Tokencube (Klaus Starnberger), 3D Robot Printing/Dutch Growth Factory (Arwin Hidding)
Funding: 35K


Cyber-physical Urban Furniture (IUF) relies on computational design for robotically 3D printing urban furniture using wood-based biopolymers. The design takes functional, structural, material, and operational aspects into account. It integrates sensor-actuators into the urban furniture enabling communication with users via sounds, lights, etc. and web-based apps, respectively. The furniture components range in size and functionality from pavilions, info or food booths, to benches and stools. They are designed with structural, functional, environmental, and assembly considerations in mind. At the micro-scale, the material is displaying degrees of porosity, where the degree and distribution of porosity i.e. density are informed by functional, structural and environmental requirements, while taking into consideration both passive (structural strength, physical comfort, etc.) and active behaviours (interaction, etc.). At the meso-scale, the component is informed mainly by the assembly logic, while at the macro scale, the assembly is informed by architectural considerations.

The 3D printed pieces of urban furniture with integrated sensor-actuators may integrate plans as in the BCP Planetoids and may be to some degree reconfigurable as in the VS Chaise longue. They will be proof of concept for:

  1. Process- and material-efficiency achieved through smart robotic (i.e. selective) material deposition. Material considered is 3D printed wood polymers.
  2. Smart operation by integrating sensor-actuators such as light dependent resistors, infrared distance sensor, pressure sensor, etc. informing lights, speakers, ventilators, etc. in order to allow users to customize operation and use of the urban furniture.

Furthermore, these sensor-actuator mechanisms are monitored online as for instance:

  1. Temp and humidity are measured and when one or the other is too low or too high notifications are made to an app; lights, sounds, as means of communication are considered as well;
  2. Outdoor locations of interactive furniture are shown on a map and the movement of visitors is tracked;
  3. Visitors can share geotagged images and also exchange messages on the online app, etc.

The project addresses the question of how robotics are integrated in user-driven building processes and the urban environment in order to make production efficient and utilisation smart. The distributed sensor-actuators are conceived as intelligent networked components, locally driven by people’s preferences and environmental conditions.