Most recently, I have been working with procedural modeling software to create very forward-thinking conceptual designs. This way of modeling objects, buildings, or even cities is quite interesting as it allows for a more rapid testing, experimentation, and prototyping of ideas. And when procedural modeling integrates sensory design methodologies, opportunity to achieve high level poetics can surface.
What if architecture’s function was not only to meet a need, but to also help its occupants to achieve a longer-term goal? For example, a person may want to exercise more to increase health, or they may want to create an amazing presentation to win a big project at work. Can environments actually help occupants with such goals? Yes, I believe they can – and the following are a few examples of how this can be possible…
When designing, do you give thought to how your creation will grow with its user? Of course, this means more than simply creating flexible space that allows building occupants to interchange its functionality. To truly create an environmental design that grows and evolves with its occupant means that you, as the designer, must compose the narrative of space to meet your client’s needs and predict your client’s goals as they evolve.
It seems that the environment can help its occupants to expand beyond their own comfort zones, to achieve higher potentials and realize authentic fulfillment. This does not mean pushing a person into a situation that is dangerous or completely unexpected. But it does mean helping a person step into their next level of greatness.
Learning through nature is a wonderful way to design architecture drawing from nature’s inspirational and very ingenious solutions. Nature has so much to teach designers, and designers can extract an incredible amount of design information from nature.
As responsive architecture uses data to inform its behaviors to better serve its occupants, the city will similarly use data to better serve its citizens through urban behavioral orchestrations. So the question becomes: How can data be strategically used to help all three scales — the individual scale, the building scale, and the city scale?
Responsive architecture is not just about providing an endless flow of information that continues whether or not the occupant absorbs it well. Architectural design for schools and museums can become more nuanced to better fulfill the real-time needs of occupants as they explore and learn.
As architecture gains greater transience, it also becomes an architecture that helps occupants at more impactful levels. For example, technology integration, smart material behaviors, and even kinetic motion can all serve to heighten more of the valuable meaning in transience for occupants.
As architectural environments become increasingly responsive, they gain ability to change and become more personalized as they meet the needs of their occupants. For students, this can bring big benefits as innovative school design ideas pull from an adaptive architectural design approach.
As interactive architecture gives way to adaptive architecture, it becomes important to understand how a more responsive space impacts its occupants. That is, does it make decisions for them? Or, does it provide choice to get occupants to think more carefully about their own decisions? Perhaps, the adaptive architecture can decipher when to do each — giving occupants the best of both worlds.
As a building stands serving its occupants over time, it goes through many changes. Some of those changes affect its design directly, and some changes occur without ever altering the way the building works. But what about adaptive architecture? Can an architecture that learns be more responsive to changes that occur?
The real question, thus, surfaces — Can architecture facilitate behavior change within occupants? You see, motivation is what is needed to engage occupants to take on new or changed behaviors.
Responsive architecture is design that interacts with people. It engages them with their environment — and it impacts the way they feel, think, and behave. This is where sensory design comes in, because it is a way of designing that places the building occupant at the center, with careful attention to the way a space may impact them both in the short and long term.
Architecture that is responsive is often thought to engage the individual — meeting one person’s needs through adaptive design. But what about the collective? How can a responsive building contribute to the collective need? And how large is the collective? Is it made up of three people, an urban area, or an entire city?
The relationship between architecture and occupant can be quite a beneficial one — particularly when both aim to improve occupant lifestyle. In particular, since architecture acts as a constant observer of that lifestyle, it is most beneficial when it engages its occupants to help them improve their life directly.
As a person works to achieve their goal, they often will encounter milestones along the way. And at these milestones it becomes important for them to assess how they are doing. Are they behind where they should be at a certain point? Are they ahead? And what happens as a result of where they are?
If a building can provide real-time feedback to assist with promoting positive behaviors, do you think it would be a good idea to design such a building? You see, the implications to designing such a building are many. For instance, notions of privacy, control, and determining what positive behaviors to promote all feed into what might make such a building challenging to build.
You may start to more truly understand what smart materials, and more specifically adaptive materials, are becoming capable of doing. Not only would such innovations help the building industry with the maintenance of buildings, and therefore also their safety, but they would also carve a path toward further developments leading to more sophisticated adaptive environments.
Environment and behavior are linked. And since research is showing that this is the case, I think you as an architect should be aware of how your designs may spark certain behaviors in your building occupant.
What if upon entering your building, you could see actual signals being sent to you from your occupants about how they feel while experiencing your building design? Would you design differently if you knew when within your building design they felt happy? Or in awe? Or stressed?
We are currently in the midst of an information revolution which I often hear overwhelms people, particularly as they strive to solve complex problems where they need to rely on specific information to know how and when to act upon their choices in order to find a clear path toward their goal.
While this responsive lighting innovation may sound somewhat simple in principle, it does take an interesting step toward providing a tool for greater adaptive design approaches.
Adaptive architecture will embody behaviors that respond to human and environmental interactions. It is with this transience that architectural space will more fully interact — or “converse” with its occupants, in grand part due to converging architectural technology.
One of the most profound and informative senses that we have is our sense of touch. This sense informs so much of the way we “see” the world around us. Some have even said that touch is the greatest of all the senses.
A recent exhibit at Vienna’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Gallery is titled Transitory Objects where architectural forms unleashed a redefined way of perceiving architecture. Adaptive architecture can easily stem from such displays where the form is actually a moment “captured” during its dynamic process of mutation.
There is no question that the design evolution of technology is skyrocketing – and having profound effects on architecture. As technology grows in processing power, it also shrinks in size, allowing for more complex uses where technology can be embedded in objects (and smart environments).
What if interactive architecture could do more than just react to its occupants? What if architecture was based on rules that could promote designated functions? In this light, architecture would be motivational and goal-oriented.
Just as the brain changes itself by learning, so too must interactive architecture. By learning from feedback, this type of architecture can learn to adapt to occupant needs in real-time. As it interacts, it learns – adapting and evolving as occupant need deem necessary.
As an environmental designer, it is important to make smart design decisions during your creative process – at all stages. This is where the practice of design fiction can be injected into your process, to help you formulate not just one design solution that you iterate; but a variety of possible solutions that you can compare, test, or explore quickly at the beginning of your concept formulation process.
In history, there have been times when an “unbuildable” concept, only realized on paper, was paradigm shifting – as such concepts served to shift the mindset of the people toward greater innovative possibilities for the future. I still find it fascinating to see these “unbuildable” concept drawings from yesteryear, and then to think about how our current “unbuildable” concepts will impact the future of our present time.
As is typical with the present-time, we are always in the midst of emerging trends. For designers, this means either following the trends or setting new ones by being well ahead of the curve. Environmental design is no different. As advancing technologies like virtual reality lead to augmented realty, or as interactive physical space leads to adaptive physical space, it becomes fascinating (and necessary) to question where these technological developments are heading.