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When Flexible Design Calls for More than Modularity

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

Different needs surface that often require for a flexible design. Just think of how a home might need to grow or shrink (as the family does), or how a business may grow and change (as will its office building). Also, even within a school classroom, functions change multiple times a day.

Modularity is one way to deal with and accommodate flexible design, but an additional way is through adaptable design. This can include aspects like smart materials, interactive surfaces, or kinetics.

Thus, as you design for a flexible building — it may help to think beyond the modular. Think in terms of meeting occupant needs with transient architectural features that morph in real-time. Take advantage of the adaptive so that you will have more “tools” in your design “tool belt”.

You’ll be able to design architecture that may need to change every decade or every minute. By taking advantage of what smart materials, interactive surfaces, and kinetics can do — you will even know how to use modularity in more intelligent ways.

For example, think of a building’s skin. Often with modularity, this skin is used to segment space in various “flexible” configurations. But what if you could take this skin a step further? What if it could morph in real-time to meet changing occupant needs? What if that building skin was made up of smart materials, interactive surfaces, and kinetic mechanisms that allowed for greater, more meaningful, transience?

As you can see, modularity will take you so far — but it is nice to think beyond modularity so you know how to use it best. Combine modularity with skin adaptability and you will have a flexible design that may change every decade or every minute.

As new tools emerge, think more than just about shifting modules. Thinking about how they can morph in real-time — materialistically, kinetically, and interactively. Your design will be that much stronger.

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AI Group Design
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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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