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How Architectural Innovation Can Make You a Better Architect


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy


Finding and learning from latest architectural innovation trends can really help you to be a better architectural designer. You see, by understanding how architecture is advancing, you can take advantage of latest breakthroughs to improve your own designs. In this video, I will show you the next steps in architectural innovation for dynamic building designs — plus, you will learn how each step builds upon the last, so you understand where innovative architectural qualities can fit into your own design work.



00:01 Maria Lorena Lehman: I’m Maria Lorena Lehman, Founder of Sensing Architecture and the MLL Design Lab. In this video, I’m going to teach you about the next steps in architectural innovation. Architecture has been through flex design, is going through interactive design, and in the future will embark upon adaptive design. In this video, I’ll teach you what that’s all about and how you can target your architectural designs to take advantage of the best of what the future holds.

00:37 MLL: So what are the next steps in architectural innovation? Well, as you may already know, flex design has been in the design parameter for a while. And this has led way into interactive design, which we’re beginning to see manifestations of in many projects today. And now adaptive design is just surfacing and has a ways to go, but adaptive design is on the forefront as well. So we’ve gone from flex design to interactive design, and now we’re heading into adaptive design.

01:13 MLL: So if we take a step back and look at flex design. Flex design really involves physically moving features. So for instance, a wall can move physically to reconfigure the space within a room to better meet occupant needs as their needs may change within a physical space. Now this differs from interactive design. In interactive design, sensors can be used, for example, where you might have one room where there’s a light bulb, for instance, and if there’s no person in the room the light will remain off. But in that same room, if a person enters a sensor will notice and the light bulb will turn on. This is a very simple example of a room or an architectural space meeting real-time need for an occupant. But this type of interaction is one way, so to speak. It’s one cycle where an occupant carries out an action or behavior, the architecture responds and the need is met. But to take that a step further, we delve into adaptive design.

02:41 MLL: Now with adaptive design we can go a bit beyond meeting simple needs. We can aim toward achieving larger milestones and goals for occupants. For instance, if an occupant’s goal is to exercise more, to live a healthier lifestyle, architecture can begin to meet their needs. And as it meets many needs over time in an adaptive fashion, where the architecture adapts to how the occupant is responding along their progress of meeting their goal, the architecture will adjust itself to better help that occupant meet their goal of more exercise. So for instance, the architecture can suggest to an occupant that he or she take a run if the weather looks good and the time is right. And then the occupant can respond by carrying out with their run.

03:46 MLL: In another instance, the architecture could suggest that the occupant take the stairs instead of the elevator. Hence, again, another need is met where the occupant exercised. And then the architecture can send out a reminder for the occupant to workout at the right place, at the right time. This reminder can be very effective. And again, it meets the occupant’s need in terms of them wanting to exercise more and reach their certain goal; if they’re training for a marathon, for instance. So, the reason behind adaptive design and why it can work and be so successful for the future of architecture and innovation is because the architecture gains the ability to adjust itself to its occupants over time. And this means that this meeting of need gets repeated over time so that they can meet their goal. So it’s not just about meeting random needs, but it’s about meeting needs strategically to reach a larger milestone or goal.

05:02 MLL: So to recap, architectural innovation in terms of dynamic architecture has progressed from flex design to interactive design to adaptive design. We’ve gone from the physical movement of architectural features to a one-cycle response using sensors perhaps, with interactive design, to adaptive design where learning can occur. The architecture can learn the best ways to meet occupant need in real time, due to sensemaking and rule-based systems, which are integrated into the architecture.

05:43 MLL: If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to join my Design Insight Newsletter and you will also get my book “Bringing Architecture to the Next Level” for free. Discover how you can shift your mindset to reach breakthrough ideas, meet and predict occupant need using sensory design, leverage your design process so you can get more with less, and rethink new technologies to unleash your innovative edge. To join now and access your book, simply visit


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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