What is Embedded Intelligence?

In nature, systems perform optimally through the effective differentiation of matter and hierarchy— from the material organizations of shells to the social behavior found in bee colonies. In material systems, such as tortoise and lobster shells, variable stiffness achieves structural rigidity while maintaining flexibility within a single surface. In social collective systems, ants and bees employ finely choreographed rule sets to establish robustness within a single colony or nest. Across the many scales of natural phenomena, intelligence is an embedded characteristic through which highly effective and differentiated performance emerges.

This 10-day intensive program will combine research in the areas of natural systems and composite materials with methods of advanced manufacturing. We will explore the possibility for biological models to influence and enhance architectural systems, wherein intelligence is embedded through differentiated yet continuous high-performance surfaces.

Applied Learning

Workshop participants will design, prototype, and fabricate mock ups for a composite structure on New York City’s East River. Responsive to the river’s flows and fluctuations, this structure will serve as a prototype for future research and development in the area of high performance architectural surfaces. Curriculum instruction will be led by a team of industry thought leaders and expert consultants.

Digital Technology Topics

Rhino 5.0




Ladybug for Grasshopper


Autodesk T-Splines


Autodesk Flow Design


Integrated Learning Modules

Through rigorous hands-on experimentation, we will search for novel design strategies that utilize the embedded intelligence found in both material systems and the fabrication techniques that shape them.


All materials are embedded with implicit capabilities; in Module 1 we will develop an understanding of the inherent properties of various materials, and explore ways to exploit these in the design of material systems. We will couple this to a discovery in the many ways in which natural systems use material strategies to optimise performance.


In Module 2, participants will explore the inherent capabilities embedded within fabrication systems and how these can inform design strategies in order to produce novel material effects.


With the skills and knowledge obtained in Modules 1 and 2, we will explore differentiated material systems with the ability to produce architectural space. We will establish techniques for working seamlessly between physical and digital models, working through multiple prototypes using both additive and subtractive fabrication methods.