In a project called “Translated Geometries,” three students from Barcelona’s Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia are now exploring the possibilities of a new flexible form of architecture that would actively respond to environmental cues, namely changes in heat, humidity, and light, according to a report from Wired.
Students Ece Tankal, Efilena Baseta, and Ramin Shambayati are tinkering with a responsive composite material called Shape Memory Polymers that can expand to 400 percent of its original surface area. When heated to 60 to 70 degrees Celsius (140 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit), the material becomes flexible and deformed. It cools and hardens in its new shape, while retaining the “memory” of its original form, granting the material an ability to retract when reheated.
The team used these SMPs to build hexagonal joints, and embedded them into a fabric of triangular wooden plywood tiles, a rigid yet flexible surface material that could expand and contract along with the joints and show them in action.
“You can reuse the same material intelligence embedded in the building to help with different scenarios or needs,” Shambayati tells Wired.
Although he’s still fuzzy on the direct applications of the material, he’s open to the possibility of “an architecture that isn’t so rigid, that tries to be more attuned with its environment.” Perhaps awnings that extend themselves when the sun gets too bright? Fences that spring up when your neighbors get really obnoxious? The possibilities are endless.