In 2013, Skylar Tibbits of the MIT Self-Assembly Lab introduced a new phrase to the architectural lexicon: 4D Printing. The concept, which built on the hype surrounding 3D printing and added the dimension of time, describes materials that can be constructed through 3D printing in such a way that they later react and change shape in response to an external stimulus such as heat or moisture.
Tibbits demonstrated his idea with a composite of two materials, but now researchers led by materials scientist Jennifer Lewis at Harvard have gone one better, creating a method that produces the same effects with just one material.
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When it comes to scrutinizing architectural materials for their energy efficiency, one offender stands out above the rest: glass. Windows and curtain walls act as one of a building’s main outlets for heating and cooling losses, and as society advances into its more environmentally-conscious future, new, passive solutions will need to be developed to mitigate buildings’ energy footprints. In recent years, various smart glass technologies have been designed to automatically regulate light and heat based on environmental conditions. Yet their high price tags have prevented them from achieving widespread application. Now, a team of MIT researchers may have discovered an alternative to smart glass that could come at an affordable price.
You’ve probably never given much thought to the seemingly basic interior partitions of an airplane, but building codes are a walk in the park compared to the exacting standards of aviation design. Those thin panels that separate the seats from the plane's galley must also be capable of supporting the weight of flight attendant jumpseats and providing a removable section to accommodate emergency stretchers - not to mention the rigorous safety standards and crash testing that aviation components must satisfy. With all of these challenges in mind, The Living, an Autodesk Studio, in collaboration with Airbus and APWorks, have developed the Bionic Partition Project, which harnesses generative design and 3D printing to maximize the structural efficiency of the panel, reducing the weight of an aircraft, and saving fuel. And while this particular application is specific to a single aircraft type, the technological advances could have far-reaching implications.
Developed by scientists led by Lin Wan at Northwestern University, this "Martian concrete" is just one of many scientific developments that will be required for the increasingly popular goal of sending humans to, and eventually colonizing, the Red Planet (apparently the un-colonized Moon is already old hat - just ask Matt Damon).
What if your chair was compostable? That's the question posed by this series of experiments with biologically-produced benches which are not so much manufactured as they are grown. Together, Terreform ONE and Genspace have developed two bioplastic chairs through similar processes: one, a chaise longue, is formed from a series of parametrically-shaped white ribs with a cushioned top; the second, a low-level seat for use by young children, comprises interlocking segments that can be used to twist the chair into different shapes.
Holedeck's concrete slab system claims to use 55% less concrete than a standard concrete slab, making it significantly more environmentally friendly than standard concrete structures, while reducing the thickness of floor plates to allow a greater number of floors in tall buildings.
Developed by FilzFelt and Gensler’s LA office, “Link” modular felt panels can be used for a variety of applications, from room partitioning, to shading, to acoustical dampening, to adding textural interest to a wall surface. The panels were designed to tackle a particular design problem at Gensler’s LA office, where red glazed panels acting as an architectural statement to be viewed from the street had been casting a harsh light into the interior conference room space behind. Searching for a flexible, free-form solution, and a soft material to contrast with the hard glass, Gensler designers discovered wool felt. Enter “Link.”
One of the most popular tropes of Modernist architecture was the goal of dissolving the external boundaries of the home, connecting residents to nature through the use of large glass walls in order to "bring the outside in." Nowhere was this project more thoroughly realized than in Mies van der Rohe's 1930 Villa Tugendhat, where an entire side of the glass-walled living space could, if the user wished, be dropped through the floor and the house become open to the elements. Elegant though it was (especially in 1930), Mies' solution didn't catch on, limited by the fact that it required an electric motor and a basement below in which to store the disappeared facade.
These days, while countless houses incorporate glass walls that fold, slide, or swing open, few offer the bravura of Mies' design, choosing to move the glass off to the side rather than making it disappear entirely. This year though, window and door manufacturer Vitrocsa may have turned a corner in the provision of vanishing glass walls with its "Turnable" system.
When you consider the practical properties of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - durability, versatility and low price - it is easy to understand how it has become such a common construction material, with applications as roofing membranes, siding, pipes and plumbing, conduit, window frames, window blinds, molding and trim, and fencing. But perhaps it’s time to be more cautious about its use. According to a new whitepaper report by Perkins+Will, "What’s New (and What’s Not) With PVC," in spite of recent advances in plastic chemistry PVC is still responsible for a range of environmental and human health hazards created in multiple stages of its manufacturing process.
Since the advent of the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century, materials experts have been in constant pursuit of the world's strongest materials. From stone to bricks, concrete to steel, innovation in building material has become a crucial element of architectural progression. For decades, steel has been considered the industry leader in building strength with applications in structures of all types. In a recent online documentary, researchers delved into the possibilities for alternatives to the strongest building materials on the market and arrived at some surprising results.
Could spider silk replace steel cables? Could carbon nanotubes become a substitute for rebar? Find out after the break.
"The debate linked to a more responsive architecture, connected to nature, has been growing since the 1960s," explains Irina Shaklova in her description of her IaaC research project Living Screen. "Notwithstanding this fact, to this day, architecture is somewhat conservative: following the same principles with the belief in rigidity, solidity, and longevity."
While Shaklova's argument does generally ring true, that's not to say that there haven't been important developments at the cutting edge of architecture that integrate building technologies and living systems, including The Living's mycelium-based installation for the 2014 MoMA Young Architect's Program and self-healing concrete made using bacteria. But while both of these remain at the level of research and small-scale experimentation, one of the most impressive exercises in living architecture recently was made with algae - specifically, the Solarleaf facade developed by Arup, Strategic Science Consult of Germany (SSC), and Colt International, which filters Carbon Dioxide from the air to grow algae which is later used as fuel in bioreactors.
With Living Screen, Shaklova presents a variation on this idea that is perhaps less intensively engineered than Solarleaf, offering an algae structure more in tune with her vision against that rigidity, solidity, and longevity.
Guinness World Records has awarded the title of "largest 3D printed structure" to VULCAN, a temporary pavilion designed by the Beijing-based Laboratory for Creative Design (LCD). Made up of 1023 individually printed segments, the structure was 9.08 meters long and 2.88 meters tall, and took 30 days to print and a further 12 days to assemble. The pavilion was on display earlier this month at Beijing Design Week, located in Beijing's Parkview Green retail center.
In an era when both environmental comfort and sustainability are key concerns in architecture, the tendency to cover buildings entirely in glass is among the most criticized and controversial traits of contemporary architecture, as all-glass buildings often guzzle energy thanks to their demanding cooling and heating requirements. Over the years, a number of fixes for this problem have been attempted, including smart glass solutions that allow users to modify the transparency of the window. The problem with this solution, however, is that smart glass is unable to block infrared (heat) transmission without ruining the very thing that makes glass attractive in the first place: its transparency to visible light. That conundrum may soon be a thing of the past, though. As reported by Phys.org, a team of researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new smart window technology that allows users to selectively control the transmission of light and heat to suit their requirements.
By day, the concrete facade of APG Architecture and Planning Group's latest project, the Al Aziz Mosque in Abu Dhabi, features protruding elements of Arabic script spelling out the 99 names of God from the Quran. By night though, the 515 square meter facade is transformed, as the concrete script lights up in the darkness. The effect is made possible thanks to the translucent concrete paneling system provided by German-based manufacturer LUCEM.
Perhaps the only material on the architectural market known for its "thirst," ultra-porous concrete is being hailed as the future of urban water runoff management for warm climates. The emerging material reached mainstream popularity in recent weeks thanks to a viral video depicting an apparently ordinary car park absorbing an inordinate amount of water; 1.2 million views later, the video has ignited debate on viability and possible uses for water-absorbent concrete.
Ultra-porous concrete is gaining a foothold thanks to extensive research being conducted by architects and engineers around the world. Known for its rainy climate, daring use of innovative materials and unorthodox architecture, it comes as no surprise that the Dutch city of Rotterdam has embraced water-absorbent concrete for testing.
With sustainability top of the architectural agenda, one of the most pressing issues in many designers' minds is how to extend the life of buildings. While the old-fashioned methods of robust materials, adaptable structures and careful maintenance will undoubtedly play a role in this future, one of the biggest advances made in recent years has been the development of self-healing materials. In the past few years, we've seen demonstrations of self-healing asphalt, concrete and metal that could help to significantly improve the endurance of buildings - and now it seems it's the turn of plastics.
This video shows a flexible and transparent polymer created by researchers from the University of Alicante, which after being damaged can re-fuse in just 10-15 seconds to return to its original strength. According to the researchers, the material is also non-reactive, meaning it can perform this party trick even if submerged in water or other fluid - making it suitable for use in difficult environments that might prevent access for human repairs.
If there was a most radical decade of the last century, few would come close to topping the 1960s. From the Bay of Pigs to the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe to the moon landing, there was rarely a dull moment. The world of materials was also involved, seeing the invention of a polymer surface of acrylic resin and natural minerals that was easy to clean, scratch resistant, seamless, and hygienic. Better known as Corian, the surface developed by DuPont chemist Donald Slocum in 1967 was a material that met the tough challenges of modern living.