A New Concept for Shape-Shifting Architecture That Responds to Heat

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By Liz Stinson
September 9, 2014, WIRED

With few exceptions, the buildings we occupy are rigid and stationary. This is generally a good thing. After all, no one wants an office tower toppling over with a big gust of wind. But what we gain in stability, we lose in flexibility and adaptability. As buildings become smarter and more responsive to their internal environment, it stands to reason that the architecture should be somewhat responsive, too. The problem is, that’s not exactly easy to do.

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Architects have long explored the value of adaptive architecture through conceptual projects (we’ve seen it with tensegrity structures like this one modeled after the behavior of slime mold). A project from three students at Barcelona’s Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalunya continues that exploration by looking at how physical spaces could someday morph based on various environmental inputs.

The project, Translated Geometries, tackles the idea by developing a new use for Shape Memory Polymers, a composite material that can deform and return to its original state when activated by cues like heat, humidity and light. In its proposal, the team (Ece Tankal, Efilena Baseta and Ramin Shambayati) created a modular component that expands and contracts based on temperature. The idea is that by attaching a SMP joint to a tessellation of material (in this case plywood), you can expand that component’s surface area to four times its original footprint. Read more…

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