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Audience participation helps manipulate flexible skyscraper

Evan Blass

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The one thing that even non-architect-types know about skyscrapers is that tall buildings are designed to be slightly flexible, so strong gusts of wind don't send them tumbling to the ground. Well a group of MIT students have used that concept to build their own 800-pound mini-skyscraper which, in an impressive application of performance art, actually allows on-lookers to control the way it shimmies and shakes. Winner of a competition sponsored by the university's Department of Architecture, the 40-foot-tall modular structure sports four pneumatic muscles in each one of its stackable sections, which make it lean and bend into strange and unnatural shapes when multiple audience members operate the bicycle pump- or digital-controls simultaneously. Once the current exhibition is complete, we hope the design team decides to donate the wobbly wonder to their classmates who built that completely automated dorm room, because those guys could definitely turn it into a party accessory that would put those dancing flowers from the 80's to shame.

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