Güvenç Özel is an architect, technologist and researcher. He is a lead faculty member and Program Advisor of IDEAS, a multidisciplinary research and development platform in UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design, where he leads post-graduate level design design studios and conducts technological research. He is also the principal of Ozel Office, an interdisciplinary design practice located in Los Angeles, working at the intersection of architecture, technology, media and urban culture. A native of Turkey, Özel studied architecture, sculpture, and philosophy in Bennington College. In addition, he holds a Masters of Architecture degree from Yale University, where he graduated with multiple awards. Prior to establishing his own practice and research, he worked in the architecture offices of Rafael Vinoly, Jürgen Mayer H. and Frank Gehry, among others.
His projects and experimental installations were exhibited in museums and galleries in the USA and Europe such as Istanbul Museum of Modern Art and The Saatchi Gallery in London. He formerly taught at Yale University, Woodbury University and University of Applied Arts in Vienna. His recent work was featured in CNN, BBC, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Architectural Digest, Wired, Gizmodo, Creators Project/ Vice, Dwell and Designboom among others. His project Cerebral Hut was the first example of a responsive architecture that changes shape according to the thoughts of the audience through a brain computer interface. His recent design and research on building scale 3D printing was awarded one of the top prizes at NASA’s 3D Printed Habitats Competition for the first mission to Mars.
Ozel’s current research, which is supported by leading companies Autodesk, Microsoft, Oculus and others, focuses on artificial intelligence, interactive sensor systems, robotics, computational design and virtual reality to create a reactive architecture that is synchronized and responsive to human presence and senses. He is the latest recipient of Google’s Art and Machine Intelligence grant for his project to construct a kinetic sculpture that combines sensor interaction, soft robotics, machine vision and VR. When completed in October, it will be the first interactive sculpture in the world that develops responses to the audience through machine learning and neural networks.
Cypher is a faceted sculpture with a soft robotics skin made up of silicone, held up by an aluminum frame that encases a series of linear actuators, air compressor and a computer. Through an array of infrared sensors and depth sensing cameras embedded on the skin, the sculpture has the ability to change its form, triggered by the physical proximity, gestures and moods of the users around it. Tethered to the sculpture is a virtual reality headset, allowing a user to have a real time simulation of the interior of the sculpture, turning the sculpture into an architectural scale experience. Not only the user can view the interior of the sculpture and its surface deformations real-time, but also can change the shape of the sculpture through natural gestural motions.
Through the use of artificial neural networks, the sculpture starts developing its on behaviors through time as it interacts with more participants. This technological setup combines digital fabrication, physical computing, soft robotics and VR, employing machine learning and machine vision to explore telepresence as an artistic experience. Physical changes in the environment affect the digital design and make up of a space, and the changes happening in a digital environment have an ability to transform the physical environment and object. Cypher is a sculpture that exists simultaneously in the digital and the physical worlds; it has an ability to respond to changes in its environment as data, media and material.