Transformable Design Methods

This course is intended for students interested in how to create products, buildings, and environments that utilize physical transformation to realize enhanced performance and engagement. We will cover the theory, methodology, and application of “transformable design.” In this course, you will learn how transformation itself is a design parameter that can be shaped, crafted, and optimized. 

Creating a mechanism that converts a simple push or pull into an overall metamorphosis of its size and shape is based on kinematics—the foundation of mechanical design. Using these techniques, students will learn how to program an object’s behavior by designing its form. 

Building on this design foundation, we will explore how to take this new discipline into the real world. From my own practice, we will draw on a series of pioneering projects for public art, stage sets, deployable shelters, adaptive facades, and retractable roofs, as well as case studies of historic and contemporary practitioners in this field.  

Course format: a portion of the lecture material will be pre-recorded, allowing students to view this on their own schedule. The class session will emphasize discussion and review of assignments & projects. 

Hands-on techniques:  Working with the GSD’s Fab Lab, we are creating a kit of parts for transformable structures that will be available to all enrolled students. Parts can be assembled in many different ways, allowing students to develop and demonstrate their original designs. 

Software and Simulation techniques: Methods to simulate transformable structures within a virtual environment will be taught, with workshops offered on Fusion 360 and Grasshopper. 
– Modeling transformable mechanics within the software environment
– Applying parametric methods to different types of transformable structures 
– Analyzing motion and dynamic performance

Final Projects: During the semester’s second half, students will form groups to organize final projects that demonstrate physical transformation. Past projects have included deployable pavilions, dynamic facades, and other interactive installations. Projects may be virtual, physical or both. Resources for fabricating final projects are not fully known at this point, but I am committed to supporting physical-making to the degree possible.

Please note this course will meet online through 9/15.

The first class meeting will be on Wednesday, September 1st. The rest of the semester, classes will meet during the official scheduled time. 

Note: the instructor will offer online live course presentations on 08/26, and/or 08/27. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website.