Responsive Environments: The Future of Shopping

The course looks into the future of the built environment from a technologically augmented point of view, with a strong focus on what makes technologies stick and sustainable. By taking a holistic view and putting the human being at the center and forefront, from the immediate human scale and bodily sensors to the larger environment encompassing buildings and the urban scale, the course examines new and emerging models, technologies, and techniques for the design of innovative architectural human interfaces and responsive environments.

This year the topic of investigation will be on the question the shopping experience at the intersection of digital and physical environments. Addressing the recent and rapidly changing experience of shopping and evolving expectations and its repercussions on the retail industry and the built environments.

With a focus on the Italian City of Bergamo, the course aims to investigate the complex interplay of people’s behaviors and new modes of retail with the context of responsive technologies, opening up unexpected and new research and design opportunities as well as generating impulses and solutions for innovative spatial developments at different scales. In that sense, Bergamo – a typical mid-size European city – offers an ideal case study for prototypical interventions that can be possibly replicated in other contexts.

The first part of the course leading to the final project will consist of readings and discussions, background research, site analysis, and emerging technology investigation.

Hands-on prototyping will be part of the course requirement and will feed into the larger speculative concepts. The course places an important emphasis on what makes the design of these responsive environments perceptually valid and technically feasible. In addition to the concept of retail and shopping, topics of in class discussions will include techniques of digital/physical perceptual correlations and relationship, body-centric interaction, and technological viability and longevity. The final project will be a speculative design intervention, supported by proposals and prototypes, envisaging potential future scenarios for retail and shopping experience.

This course will include a trip to Bergamo, Italy for 12 students from February 18 to 23. Students enrolled in other traveling studios or courses cannot participate in the travel component for this course. Students selected in the limited enrollment lottery must confirm their participation in the trip at the first class on Tuesday January 23rd. Students traveling to Bergamo will be term-billed $300, must obtain any necessary visas, and are responsible for the cost of all meals and incidentals as well of the cost of any change fees to the set itinerary. Students will need to sign a travel waiver in the Department of Architecture and register their trip with Harvard Travel Assist. Contact Professor Sayegh with questions. Additional limited space in the course will be available for students not participating in the trip.