Philip Beesley


Philip Beesley focuses on the rapidly expanding field of ‘smart’ buildings interwoven with artificial intelligence. His Waterloo Architecture-hosted SSHRC Partnership entitled Living Architecture Systems Group includes 60 research-creation organizations with some 150 contributors across North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. Beesley's scholarship answers pressing challenges: the explosion of integrated technologies, sustainability, and profound social transformations demand that we reimagine building models for public architectural space. The very focus of architecture must shift from end-product buildings that are static, solid, and that constrain communities to a fixed vision, into adaptive, dynamic, and sustainable structures that can support sheer viability by embracing the diversity and dynamics of human occupants. Beesley is uniting national and international networks of researchers and creators around the hypothesis that solutions lie in developing a new architectural paradigm drawn from the ingredients of life itself - scaffolds, information, and metabolisms - transforming architectural practice, product, and process alike. This leadership is establishing living architecture as an emerging multifaceted discipline, creating the necessary foundation with core groups of partners, and launching long-term alliances based on the full articulation of necessary materials, tools, and methods.

Beesley has taught at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture since 1996 and has been a full professor since 2011. Devoted to Waterloo, he has pioneered numerous new courses, workshops, seminars and 3 major conferences (ACADIA 2003, 2009, 2013), anchoring graduate studies in architecture and bridging across Arts, Science and Engineering at Waterloo. His Waterloo students and interns have received the highest national and global distinctions including the Pritzker Prize (Brooks, intern Beesley AJD, DS+Co), Canadian Prix de Rome (Macleod), international Berkeley Prize (Kenniff), two Tsinghua Fellowships (Hu, Ling) and the 2021 EU Commission STARTS prize (Ling).

His research (h-35, i10-49) anchors his leadership of the SSHRC Partnership Living Architecture Systems Group which gathers the scholarship of multiple partner institutions (MIT, UCL, CMU), knowledge-creation societies (ACADIA, American Society for Cybernetics), and knowledge-creation programs (EU Horizon EnTimeMent, Keck Futures, Futurium Mobile) placing Waterloo at the centre of urgently needed transformations of the discipline of architecture. His distinction as Finalist of the 2022 SSHRC Impact Award for Partnerships demonstrates involvement and impact. His creation and direction of Waterloo’s Riverside Architectural Press has created dozens of publications by international partners helping to establish Waterloo as a leader of design and architecture research-creation practice. He has achieved some $21.5M in his direct research funding, creating support for diverse colleagues and benefiting numerous students. Beesley’s work has also proliferated widely in popular culture (K-pop band BTS’s post featuring the ROM Transforming Architecture exhibit earned 1.5M ‘likes’ on Instagram, collaborations with couture icon Iris van Herpen have been worn by A-list figures such as Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, and Bjork).

This knowledge creation is expanded by prominent dissemination within public art and design communities, featuring innovative research-creation works. His test-bed installations combine ongoing scientific research in machine learning and complex-systems constructions integrated with immersive expressive architectural environments. Art expressions within integrated visual and multidisciplinary media are accompanied by theory, cultural-historical context, design paradigms, and by open-source reproducible models and patterns. The CGI-based film Cradle, created by Beesley in collaboration with Cannes Lion-winning London directors Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones is now in circulation (HKDI Hong Kong, Richmond-Adelaide Centre public art projections). Dissemination of immersive exhibitions by major cultural institutions (Royal Ontario Museum, MAK Vienna, Vitra Museum Basel) is expanded by ongoing touring presentations.

Beesley's contributions include far-reaching inclusive outreach programs dedicated to under-represented communities (examples this year: BIPOC community Emancipation Month Toronto "Superbloom" film; HXOUSE network Toronto 2019-21; three Beirut-based student seminars with current collaborative funding initiatives; BIPOC Renew Forsyth Winston-Salem workshops and testbed initiative, North Carolina). STEAM curriculum and 'tinkering' kits featuring low-cost biosource materials are now being integrated with summer camp and after-school curriculum oriented to young children for nonspecialist explorations of complex systems (Waterloo LAUNCH Meander program, Amatria Indiana University thirteen summer camps, three TU Delft Science Centre workshops, Palestine Texas public school curriculum, two years of Riverview High School New Brunswick programming). Open-source licensing of these digital fabrication and assembly kits are disseminated through a folio series distributed by Riverside Architectural Press online, accompanied by distribution in print and ebook form by Amazon and major retailers.

The LASG has mounted ten large international installations that include innovative test-bed research environments, and has contributed to numerous international group exhibitions and presentations. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences presented the LASG’s Sentient Chamber environment within the historic National Academy of Sciences building in Washington and described it as an exemplar of international collaboration. The Keck Foundation, the principal funder of the National Academy of Sciences, recognized the LASG with a Keck Futures funding award for its pioneering innovation. The Geneva-based research partnership of CERN hosted three research exchanges with LASG collaborators, exploring how LASG conceptions of tangible dimensions might intersect with interactions at subatomic scales. Former President Guen-Ye Park of South Korea lauded the LASG’s Epiphyte Chamber installation, which inaugurated the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, citing it as a model for how Korean art and technology should be integrated. The first phases of a $1.3M multi-year collaboration with TU Delft have now been committed, pairing Waterloo faculty with multiple disciplines in the Netherlands.

His work is recognized by global distinctions (FEIDAD, STARTS, VIDA), national awards (Dora Mavor Moore, Prix de Rome), popular global press (Vogue, New York Times), media (Colossal, Wired), multiple traveling exhibitions (Vitra: Hello, Robot!; MAK: Beauty), online lecture series (DigitalFUTURES, China Academy of Art; European Graduate School), exhibitions at global venues (2022 Hong Kong Design Institute, 2021 and 2010 Venice Biennale for Architecture; 2021 Dubai World Expo, Futurium Noosphere Berlin) and permanent testbed installations (Poietic Veil, Technical University of Delft; Amatria, Indiana University; Chun Long Tiao, Shangduli Watertown Shanghai; Aurora, West Edmonton Mall Canada) whose in-person visits now number in many millions.

Interdisciplinary integration is at the heart of Beesley's contributions. Current examples of programming exchanges within Waterloo include the innovative Tech Art coursework crossing Engineering and Fine Arts with Rob Gorbet, ECE and Architecture (Meng PhD, capstone design project Mechatronics) and application of multivariable complex-systems sustainability analysis in Civil Engineering (Shahi). His doctoral supervisions and co-supervisions have been undertaken at European Graduate School, Waterloo, ETH, CITA/Royal Danish Academy, Ghent, and Florida State University. Four Waterloo courses have been developed during the past five years, crossing undergraduate and graduate programs and helping to reinforce connections between Architecture and Architectural Engineering programs. These include the new Introduction to Interactive Systems design-based elective and Emerging Theory in Organicism seminar. The courses are accompanied by innovative cross-disciplinary inclusive learning kits, original courseware, and manuals.

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