The use of columns as not only structural but spatial devices is arguably as old as architecture itself. But perhaps it is most significantly in the work LeCorbusier and Mies van der Rohe that the column becomes preeminently a spatial organizer. Open Columns takes this one step further and makes the column exclusively a spatial device with no structural responsibilities. The columns reside collapsed within the ceiling of a space. They are made from composite urethane elastomers and can be deployed in a variety of patterns to reconfigure the space beneath them. These patterns create gradations of enclosure, either in plan through the columns’ full deployment, in section through their partial unfurling or through a combination of the two. These reconfigurations change the way the space is perceived and inhabited. At its most trivial, the columns can be preprogrammed to deploy themselves in prescribed configurations. This can be effective for re-proportioning a large space into smaller spaces or reor-ganizing the circulation of people through it. A more complex program ties the columns to realtime sensing such that they can respond to inhabitants’ perturbations in space.

In its current manifestation, the columns working on a simple set of rules respond to data coming from a carbon dioxide (CO2) sensor. In a reasonably enclosed environment CO2 values can radically change with the inclusion of people. The columns are programmed to come down when CO2 levels are going up resulting in people dispersing into smaller groups. If the CO2 levels are going down the columns respond by going up, effectively inviting people into the space. If however the CO2 value stays static the columns cycle through a random set of configurations until the CO2 either goes up or down. If a particular configuration causes a change in CO2, either going or coming down, that is put into the system’s memory and reused the next time a static situa-tion is encounters. If the next time round the stored configu-ration does not yield the necessary response then it is low-ered in rank and purged if on subsequent uses it does not perform. In this way the columns learn about their space based on their own actions within it. This creates a teleonomic environment, one that acts on particular goals but has no determinate goal to which it is driven.