Fibre Composite Adaptive Systems / Architectural Association

Courtesy of Architectural Association

Fibre Composite Adaptive Systems is a thesis project as part of the master program, Emergent Technologies and Design, at the Architectural Association in London by Maria Mingallon, and . The thesis developed a material system capable of emulating self-organization which is then extended into an architectural application. More images and project description after the break.

Courtesy of Architectural Association

Fibre composite adaptive systems is a research project which emulates self-organization processes in nature by developing a fibre composite that can sense, actuate and hence efficiently adapt to changing environmental conditions. Fibre composites which are anisotropic and heterogeneous offer the possibility for local variations in their material properties. Embedded fibre optics would be used to sense multiple parameters and shape memory alloys integrated in a fibre composite material for actuation. The definition of the geometry, both locally and globally would complement the adaptive functions and hence the system would display ’Integrated Functionality’.

Courtesy of Architectural Association

‘Thigmo-morphogenesis’ refers to the changes in shape, structure and material properties of biological organisms that are produced in response to transient changes in environmental conditions. This property can be observed in the movement of sunflowers, bone structure and sea urchins. These are all growth movements or slow adaptations to changes in specific conditions that occur due to the nature of the material: fibre composite tissue. Natural organisms have advanced sensing devices and actuation strategies which are coherent morpho-mechanical systems with the ability to respond to environmental stimulus.

Courtesy of Architectural Association

Architectural structures endeavour to be complex organizations exhibiting highly performative capabilities. They aspire to dynamically adapt to efficient configurations by responding to multiple factors such as the user, functional requirements and the environmental conditions. Existing architectural smart systems are aggregated actuating components assembled and externally controlled, whose process of change is essentially different from that of thigmo-morphogenesis. In a leaf, the veins account for its form, structural strength and nourishment, nevertheless they are an integral part of the sensing and the actuation function. This process of a coherent self-autonomous multi-functionality could be termed as ‘Integrated functionality’. Emulating such a Morpho-mechanical system with sensors, actuators, computational and control firmware embedded in a fibre composite skin was the core of the research presented herein.

Courtesy of Architectural Association

Performative abilities and intelligence of the fibre composite adaptive system proposed, springs from the integrated logics of its material behaviour, fibre organisation, topology definition and the overall morpho-mechanical strategy. The basic composite consists of glass fibres and a polymer matrix. The sensing function is carried out through embedded fibre optics which can simultaneously sense multiple parameters such as strain, temperature and humidity. These parameters are sensed and processed as inputs through artificial neural networks. The environmental and user inputs, inform the topology to dynamically adapt to one of the most efficient configurations of the ‘multiple states of equilibrium’ it could render. The topology is defined as a multi-layered tessellation forming a continuous surface which could have differentiated structural characteristics, porosity, density, illumination, self-shading and so on. The actuation is carried out through shape memory alloy strips which could alter their shape by rearranging their micro-molecular organization between their austenitic and martensitic states. The shape memory alloy strip is bi-stable, but a strategic proliferation of these strips through a rational geometry could render several permutation and combinations creating multiple states of equilibrium, thus enabling continuous dynamic adaptation of the structure.

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "Fibre Composite Adaptive Systems / Architectural Association" 20 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • sudark

    Great project! I hope to see a critical application of this on an architectural scale soon.

    I also like the fact that you took the time to explain this project quite clearly. As opposed to similar projects which just seem like an intellectual brain fart.

  • Adam

    I don’t understand, does the cone shaped thing with the sensors attached to it change shape? If it does it’s pretty subtle. The idea is compelling and would be much more so if the science had been worked out, even on a limited scale. The photos provided don’t support my understanding of the intent. Video?

    • d

      Adam, speculating: the sensors are probably reading the curvature via arduino/firewire. The mathematical idea appears to be related to the idea of catenaries derived from a physical model (think gaudi’s hanging chain structural models) as a method of form finding. Also perhaps, some form of minimal srf calculation lofting between the edge curves imported from the sensors? The computer model is then derived from the inverted physical model.

  • alejandro

    o dear, what´s next?

  • alejandro

    an original dictatorial solid material

  • j

    don´t get me wrong I´m not saying it´s not interesting somewhat… but they are so full of it, so much mumbo jumbo, I don´t get it.