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Rethinking Fluidity in Architectural Space

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © sergis blog | Flickr

The Digital Water Pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain dismissed the notion of using glass for the boundaries which mark the “separation” between the interior and the exterior. To make it even more interesting, this pavilion drops a sheet of water around its perimeter in a curtain-like fashion, but when it senses the movement and approach of a body that wishes to enter — it uses sensors to stop releasing water so as to create a portal through which a person can gain entrance into the pavilion. Yes, an early form of fluidity in action.

Carlo Ratti, the Digital Water Pavilion’s architect, uses choreography and “sensing” to bring the notions of entrance, boundary and threshold into new realms — and much of this is achieved by taking advantage of a very common material…water. He does this by creating an architectural space that takes a step toward what I call a “fluid-bridging effect”.

The Fluid-Bridging Effect

Much like a simple window screen that keeps certain elements out (insects), allows certain elements in (wind) and unveils a portal from the opposite site (for viewing), the water in Ratti’s Pavilion design gives life to a “moving wall” which bridges the exterior and interior in a real-time transient manner.

This “fluid bridge” unites these two worlds at different times and in different locations giving access, entry and view all triggered and sustained by motion. In this case, motion creates a void to allow for a fluid bridge. In other words, a connection that is in motion.

Fluidity and sensing go hand in hand for the architecture of tomorrow. In fact, you already have the tools to put these in effect today. I challenge you to look at the simple materials we all take for granted. Turn the way they work and what they are aimed to do upside-down.

Be conscious of their limitations and then imagine what would happen if a particular limitation didn’t exist. What would it allow you to achieve? Furthermore, what if you could merge two materials and then adjust the percentage of which material properties carry through to the hybrid? What would this new hybrid material allow your occupants to do? What would it allow your building to do?

Simply think beyond boundaries, and then create new ones.

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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 multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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