Building IRIS: Interview with Director of Interactive Architecture Lab Ruairi Glynn


Whilst the assembly of IRIS continues at the Interactive Architecture Lab at University College London, we sat down with Lab Director Ruairi Glynn to discuss some of the principles behind the design.

What can you tell us about the connection of architecture with emerging technologies and what is the symbiosis of the two?

We’ve been very lucky to collaborate on a number of projects with Marshmallow Laser Feast and IRIS has been the result of an ongoing research collaboration. We became fascinated by the way that lasers can create compelling perceptions of space and that animating these with robotics allows you to create dynamic architecture from light.


Creating free-form architecture and complex shapes with the technical advantages poses quite a challenge. Can you explain in a bit more detail on how architectural volumes can be shaped out of laser lines? And how much did the site of The Lowry influence the design of it?

One of the basic architectural principles we’re working with is called ruled surface geometry. A ruled surface can be generated by the motion of a line in space, similar to the way a curve can be generated by the motion of a point. Ruled surfaces are able to describe high levels of form complexity, especially when they intersect. The huge void of the auditorium of the Lowry allows us to build the performance of dynamic light forms at architectural scale.


What will we be able to see when we watch the digital laser installation unfold?

We will be able to see Hyperboloid, Helicoid, Paraboloid forms, alongside Moebius bands appear, shift, twist, and dissolve in the vast 1,700-seat Lyric theatre. Ruled surfaces have been extensively applied to architecture, with their potential exploited by new technological means. Sinusoidal techniques previously harnessed by Antoinio Gaudí in his design of Sagrada Familia’s, will be combined with the latest in robotic and laser technologies to create architectural volumes out of light.


At the assembly workshop we photographed a few students working on robot modules, where each module will create a laser beam or rather a line in the space. These lines when combined make complex form out of linear projections, summing in total 40 lasers, and 40 laser beams. It only means we have to wait a bit more and see the compelling sensations of sculptural form in the darkness of The Lowry Theatre.

IRIS will be open for public viewings from 27 May. More info here: