Adaptive Architectures

Adaptability is the means by which organisms respond to their environments, individuals interact with each other and new technologies are absorbed into culture. The integration of new communication, interactivity and display technologies in architecture fundamentally transforms spaces and places into networked, responsive and communicative environments. Adaptive Architectures are spaces capable of interactions with their environmental and social contexts. Research into new materials and systems has created an array of new smart materials that have properties that allow them to transform in appearance or performance, creating variable optics, dynamic or kinetic systems, capable of responding to social or environmental conditions. These trends are transforming architecture from a static condition, into a dynamic or animate state.

Architectural surfaces are currently the site of intense architectural speculation, with the introduction of CNC fabrication techniques and information management that allow for increased formal complexity, as well as new material properties in glass, polymers and fabrics that create building envelopes and surfaces with new spatial, visual and thermal properties. These new materials and systems have the capacity to transform architecture, its ability to regulate its appearance, its optical properties, its configuration and its thermal qualities, and demand a radical rethinking of interiority, exteriority, privacy, publicness, exposure and visibility within architecture.

This course will investigate the contemporary shift towards adaptability in architecture, as manifested in new and smart materials, the development of adaptable building components and systems, and the integration of synthetic understandings of buildings and their larger environments (both climate and social).

The course is part of a larger initiative between Merck KGaA and the GSD on Technologies for Building. A conference with the same name was held in October 2015 and the course aims to further develop topics raised by the conference for a publication with the same name: Adaptive Architectures and Smart Materials.