X Cube

Engineering fabrication and interaction design
Client: Uraiqat Architects

In a challenging city that doesn’t stop,

At times, you become the centre of the motion,

And when you try to take a pause,

You see everything, except for you,

But when you look closer,

the entire images blurs,

Except for the image of you

Built for Amman Design week, X-Cube is an experimental project designed by Uraiqat architect. It experiments the creation of a large scale object, composed of tiny bits that each move individually and help the audiance question how they see themseleves, and how they see themselves within the city? Designed as a cube, Each facade side was 3 meters, and the project was displayed in a public place. Creating an interaction that depends on sensors, that move when you move, which was the initial scenario designed with the cube, was not going to be meaningful in the crowd. The other option was to provide an individual experience, so it is you, amongst the crowd, against this reflective creature, which at times, you can’t control its movement, at other times, you are the centre of the movement, and there are moments where you look at others thinking that we see the same image, but we are getting exactly opposite views.

Each facade is composed of 134 triangle, each is attached to a servo motor with a tilting bracket to allow free individual motion.

Each facade is powered by 5 units of 6V and 20Amp power supplies. I costume made those batteries at ">Winston Industries, providing a total of 100amp per facade. A tree connection was designed to provide power from both sides to compensate for the mild voltage drop. Each motor was connected to a small pref-board fabricated small connector board (picture below) providing a line of 17 connectors per each row in each facade. 1.6mm wires were used for power, while signal wires were connected to an CAT8 data cable.

DC power connectors, each costs around 15 EUR in Jordan, with a tree connection, this meant 2 plugs per each row; due to budget restrictions, I designed the tree connection, with an end terminal of an MK plug for AC installations. Looks weird, but it worked well!

Motors were controlled usign PWM servo shield from Adafruit industries . The PCS9685 piece, provides a versatile way to move a large number of motors synchronically, in a very smooth way. Each line of 17 motors was connected to a shield, then all shields where connected to a single Arduino, and literally that's it. The shield changes the communication protocol (I2C) between the servo and the Arduino, making it possible to control 134 motors at once, using a single Arduino. Technically, it was such an interesting experinece.

The making of the X Cube

I was officially assigned the project on August 1st. Motors and power supplies arrived around the first week of September, allowing only 4 weeks to finalize the structure, on site. We spent two weeks at the office, building a wall to test behavior and structure. Photo by Basel Uraiqat (In the photo is the increadible volunteer Zaid Marji, without whom, possible this wouldn't have been built)

To avoid stamping, traingles were assembled while covered. It was challenging trying to design reflective expeirnces, on a non- reflective surfance.

Installing has been challenging, in every single phase, for example, motors were powered, and adjuste on 90 degrees, while the brackets where installed, otherwise, the orientation of the whole movement would be messy, as people would move the shaft orientation while installing the bracket to the motor.

Work extended to 16-18 hours a day for the last 3 weeks of construction, then it only took 90 minutes to disassemble everything, and allow the X Cube experiment to rest in peace!