As the context of a building develops over time and the use of a building changes, adaptation becomes a crucial part of a building’s existence. Buildings should be flexible and have the capability of responding to contextual changes in order to strengthen their performance and lengthen their lifespan. Humans respond to climate shifts through the changing of clothes; animals respond by gaining and shedding fur or body mass. Similarly, buildings should be limber and invite people to flex, adjust, and operate them, allowing for a responsive action to changes in climate or shifts in a building’s program. This approach to flexible architecture generates a kinetic environment that breathes life into buildings and allows for constant adaptation and versatility.
Buildings should be flexible and have the capability to respond to contextual changes, like shifts in climate or increases in occupancy load, in order to strengthen their performance and lengthen their lifespan. Similar to how humans respond to climate shifts through the changing of clothes, buildings should be limber to invite people to flex, adjust, and operate them, allowing for a responsive action to changes in climate or shifts in a building’s program. Buildings could become chameleon-like to match the needs of the social fabric and the changes within their environments. This approach to flexible architecture generates a kinetic environment that breathes life into buildings and allows for constant adaptation and versatility. By freeing buildings from their static form, they invite movement, morphing, and changing shape all of which could greatly improve building performance and the shaping of space.
Image of “Walking City” - Archigram, 1964
The Metaphysical Construction is a device for explaining the potential dialogue of the social fabric with the built environment. This device is designed to be held in two hands and is capable of the mechanical quality of twisting. The device represents the kinetically assembled built environment that has the potential of reacting or responding built within its DNA. A person must hold the device in their hands and twist it, which results in a change in the object. The interaction of a participant is necessary to view the dialogue between the two. The person represents the social fabric and the twisting represents the interaction with the built environment. The object itself has very little meaning, but after the participant manipulates it, it becomes much more valuable because it can be interacted with and operated. The potential for interaction is a quality that the built environment should have as an invitation to foster a rich dialogue with the social fabric.
The Kinetic Construction is a device that illustrates the spatial effect of a kinetic building assembly. This device is designed to encapsulate an elevated space with a very simple geometry so the kinetic affects may be obvious. The envelope of the space is constructed of two folded acrylic planes that are mounted on rollers and have the kinetic DNA of sliding in opposite directions of one another. When a force is applied to both parts they begin to slide, which opens the space and drastically changes the quality of the space.
For building parts to become kinetic and set in motion, lightweight and flexible materials or a strong and rigid material that can endure the added force of movement are needed. Because of the inflexibility and inferior precision of many other building materials, the ideal building material capable of achieving such an ambitious goal is steel. Steel has the strength, rigidity, longevity, and precision to withstand both movement and time in addition to being a non-diminishing and ever-recyclable material. Its highly mechanical nature also invites transformation and manipulation. By using steel, sliding and pivoting mechanisms can be easily designed and fabricated in order to shape the foundational elements of kinetic architecture.
There are other performative materials that embody responsive and adaptive qualities, such as malleable fabrics, but they must have a stronger element like a frame made of different material for support. Wood is undesirable because it splinters and deteriorates over time. Furthermore, the added force of movement would weaken the material. Concrete is also a bad material to move because in every moveable assembly, there is always a part that is in tension. This is a directional force and is the weakness of concrete. Concrete, however, is a material that has good compressional strength so it can function well as a static supporting element for kinetic architecture. Surface-responsive materials can change the length, chemical composition, architecture, and topology of the chains, which allows response mechanisms and rates to be easily manipulated (Russell, 2002).