Dec 2018


The detection of gravitational waves is an inherently geometrical issue: LIGO interferometers are, essentially, architectural machines that 'understand' when space is bent through anomalies in the way light travels in space. Expanding on this notion, the project begins with studying the technology of this infrastructure and proposes a structure - the "Needle" - that frees itself from the x-y-z restrictions of current terrestrial LIGO interferometers, in the context of speculative design. The "Needle" is designed according to the theory behind the actual next-gen interferometer, LISA, which is to be funded by the ESA and launch in 2037. To narrate the story of the existing science in the domain, it builds a narrative that starts from the detection of such an irregularity - the "Glitch".

The project “Hypertopias” unfolds in the space of a Science Fiction scenario, pinning a future detection of a “gravitational glitch” by the LIGO facility in Livingston. The glitch, acting as the MacGuffin of the story, is an unidentified object, an element that occupies space and appears as a visual mistake in an architectural machine. In a quest to understand how to perceive such an object, the scientific community speeds up the design and launch of a next generation Interferometer, “The Needle”. The new Interferometer operates according to LIGO’s legacy yet freed from terrestrial restrictions (ex. ground vibrations and signal interferences). Expanding in all X,Y, Z axes, The Needle can now detect spacetime destortions 12 times more than her precursor.As part of the first, pre-thesis semester in Studio One, this project was an excercise on story-telling, visual narration and creating scenarios that bridge science with design. The overall objective was to create a story founded on compelling visuals that immerse the audience into the design proposal. For this purpose, I created a series of “artefacts” that depict how this glitch was perceived by the scientific community through a variety of media (interferometer, cameras, sonic radars), the actual Interferometer around which the story evolves and finally a book with seven stories, as narrated by seven different people (the LIGO director, a Hypertopes PhD candidate, a newscaster, one of The Needle’s mechanical engineer, a computer scientist and the Janitor of the LIGO station).

The Needle is designed as the evolution of the LIGO Interferometers. More specifically, it consists of three main arms, each of which holds two tubes. When in Open Mode, the arms unfold and form an XYZ axis system, operating as six LIGOs simultaneously. Light beams are beamed down each tube in 90o pairs, bounce back by the mirrors and then merge at the center of The Needle. If the light beams reach the center at the same time, they cancel each ther out meaning that they have covered the same distance (space is not bent). If there is a time delay, optical light is produced meaning that one of them has travelled a longer or shorter distance: space has been bent! Sensitive detectors can tell if the length of the arms of a LIGO detector varies by as little as 1/10,000 the width of a proton, representing the incredibly small scale of the effects imparted by passing gravitational waves. (source) When in Stealth Mode, the beamer shoots laser in opposite directions in only one arm, operating nonetheless on the same rules.