New ‘living’ sculpture in Cambridge offers vision for sustainable future

A unique sculpture in Cambridge is reimagining the future of architecture.

Meander was unveiled earlier this month at Tapestry Hall and it’s said to be the largest living architecture sculpture in the world.

It features large spheres, cloud canopies and water-like formations made up of about half a million pieces using materials such as metal and recycled polymer.

There are about 100 motion sensors that react with sound, light and movement, ultimately bringing the sculpture to life.

Meander was designed by Philip Beesley, architecture professor at the University of Waterloo and team lead of the Living Architecture Systems Group.

Meander is made up of half a million assembled pieces. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

“Architecture, rather than being the idea of something that’s static walls and closed volumes, could actually be something that’s alive — literally alive — combing all the living systems, being responsive and sensitive and contributing to our world,” he said, noting that he was inspired by nature and the Grand River’s ecosystem.

More than a dozen teams from around the world helped with the project presented by HIP Developments and the City of Cambridge. 

Future of architecture

Can architecture come alive? Could future buildings think and care?

Beesley thinks so. He said his sculpture acts as a test bed that supports this ongoing research.

“I’m speaking very much through imagination and vision, but I hope that this work is also very serious, that it really means business,” he said.

“We’re trying very hard to invent and work with concrete building materials, ways of fabricating things, ways of organizing computational systems, ways of sharing this material so that we could get to work making a strong, resilient future,” said Beesley.

The sculpture’s motion sensors react with sound, light and movement. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

He said the building process is much more sustainable, using fewer and thinner materials and unique methods including 3D printing and laser cutting.

“We think that this could make a great contribution to sustainable building in the future,” said Beesley.

Check it out

Meander is free and open to the public Thursday to Saturday.

Meander is free and open to the public at Tapestry Hall. (Courtesy of Philip Beesley Architect Inc./Living Architecture Systems Group)

The audience can interact with the sculpture without directly touching it and must follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Beesley said he hopes people walk away from the experience with a sense of “possibility.”

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