Architects can do far more than design buildings. In fact, some of history’s most acclaimed innovators were not only architects, but also inventors. Leonardo da Vinci himself, the epitome of the Renaissance man, sketched buildings alongside ideas for flying machines. Buckminster Fuller was the ultimate futurist and invented the geodesic dome in addition to his Dymaxion Car, an automobile that was far ahead of its time. Now, an architect has developed “the world’s first hoverboard,” and the technology has far-reaching implications for not only transportation, but also buildings themselves. Read on after to break to learn more about what this technology could mean for the future.
Ever since he was in graduate school, architect Greg Henderson has been trying to develop technologies to make buildings more resistant to natural disasters such as earthquakes. In his interview with Aaron Tilley of Forbes, Henderson says, “The idea came from being able to levitate buildings out of earthquakes. All of the patents I was looking at were for moving objects. So I asked, why is that? If I can levitate a train, why not a house?”
For the past two years Henderson has worked with his 19-person startup Arx Pax to develop what they call Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA™), the electromagnetic technology that can make objects hover. However, the idea of using electromagnetic fields to separate objects from the ground is not new. Similar, yet more costly and inefficient versions of the same technology have been used in the development of Maglev bullet trains. Whereas this technology requires the use of expensive electronic sensors, all MFA™ requires is a surface that is a non-ferromagnetic conductor, such as aluminum or copper. This translates to significant savings for transportation technology, and could open up additional opportunities for the technology to be applied on larger scales.
In order to accomplish the seemingly insurmountable task of making a building levitate, Henderson had to start small. The startup recently unveiled a Kickstarter campaign to spark interest in their research and development, and has thought up several ideas to make the technology appealing to consumers. Everyone has seen hoverboards in Hollywood movies, but these high-tech gadgets could finally become a reality. Because the boards require a copper or aluminum surface, Arx Pax hopes to develop a skate park after the launch of the hover boards, which would give consumers a fun place to try out the new gadgets. They hope to have their production hoverboard ready by October 21st, 2015 (the date hoverboard riding Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future 2).
By approaching the development of this technology through marketing it in a fun and futuristic consumer product, Henderson hopes to garner the necessary funding to make his original dreams of levitating buildings a reality. If this technology takes off, one can imagine a very different world for architects in which gravity does not inhibit structure in the ways it does today. Many of the issues that come with building in earthquake or flood prone areas could be eliminated if buildings could simply levitate above the land. There are likely thousands of other ways in which hover technology could be beneficial and transform the cities in which we live; architects just need to imagine it.