Architectural space as we know it is left largely empty even when it is inhabited. We have become accustomed to this empty space, take it for granted, and most likely could not imagine a life in which we are forced to occupy only the space that we use. Through cataloguing our everyday activities and analyzing our body movements, Stavros Gargaretas of Why Factory studio at TUDelft sought to examine the question of ultimate space efficiency with a project entitled “The Evolving Room: Inhabiting Zero Wasted Space.” The work was completed under the supervision of Ulf Hackauf, Adrian Ravon and Huib Plomp, along with Why Factroy founder Winy Maas and won TUDelft's Best Graduation Project of the Faculty of Architecture award.
Combining live scale test settings with hypothetical materials, this exploration simulates an extreme architecture of real-time ergonomics and space efficiency. The narrative subsequently produced describes the requirements of determining and inhabiting such a space, while also analyzing the possible benefits and limitations of a fully-adaptable environment. The research, brought forward in three chapters, seeks to answer the question “Can we live with zero wasted space?” while challenging our perceptions of architectural space and our physical context.
In chapter one of the project’s research narrative, observation of the human body and how it can be monitored and tracked became the basis for a mapping tool. Using Microsoft Kinect Motion Tracking technology, Gargaretas recorded a person's movements every two seconds. The records formed from this process could then be compiled and logged to track their behavior over time. From this study, a model of the space we actually use was developed. Following this initial exploration, the team then derived the question of how visually described space can manifest itself in the form of real, physical space that perfectly matches our ergonomic needs.
The second chapter takes this manifestation of physical space one step further with the goal of writing a program for a new kind of material. The research within this chapter elaborates on the various spatial conditions required if we intend to live within such a carefully calculated ergonomic boundary. The hypothetical material developed for such a program must be exceedingly dynamic, constantly adapting to the physical and environmental requirements of our daily lives, much like the human body has adapted to perform a wide range of activities in varying conditions. From chapter two arises the more difficult question of whether or not we could live within this complete ergonomic environment.
By utilizing live scale tests, chapter three aims to answer that question and further understand the “ergonomics of comfort.” Through his findings, Gargaretas sought answers to questions such as “How claustrophobic would it be for us to live within our Zero Wasted Space?” Other topics arise in this section such as the notion of customization of space. This leads to the second primary tool of their research; the interface. In theory, if a human is capable of interacting with the information recorded they can further determine ways to add comfort and livability to the “model of full ergonomy.” From this set of research a new model of spatial efficiency emerges that has become increasingly inhabitable as a result of our own interaction and feedback.
Perhaps most importantly, although this project suggests the possibility of an increasingly dynamic physical environment, it never remains settled in a context and thus never becomes a part of the built urban fabric. In this way, the project functions more as an abstract field of data, and is described by the researchers as “an ambiguous but precise cloud of information, that opens up a theoretical discussion about the efficient use of space.” In conclusion Gargaretas asks, “What could it mean that we suddenly are confronted with information about the way we use space, while challenging our traditional understanding of architectural space itself?"