Actuated Adaptive Architecture
Adaptive pneumatic structures with embedded spatial reconfiguration capacities derived from biological role models

The potential of kinematic mechanisms as an integral core element of adaptive architecture is to dynamically adjust performative parameters in response to constantly fluctuating influences by changing position or geometry of building components resulting in variable spatial configurations. Pneumatic structures hold the potential to be used as kinematic mechanisms as variations in pressure result in geometric changes depending on the cells geometry, arrangement and material properties.

State of the art digital fabrication and computational design technologies open up new possibilities in creating complex differentiated pneu geometries and arrangements. Manifold parameters which define the kinematic behaviour of pneumatic structures can be differentiated within the process of digital morphogenesis and materialised through CAM technologies. Computational controlled pressurization of the cells allows variable morphologic configurations within the systems kinematic morphospace.

This development opens up unexplored potential for the transfer of abstracted biomechanical adaptation mechanisms to pneumatic kinematic structures in architecture. Active adaptation capacity can be found in nature where various organisms have developed adaptation mechanisms appropriate for the varying influences they are exposed to in their habitat. Making use of this rich repertoire of mechanisms for architectural application requires a transdisciplinary biomimetic approach. Pneumatic systems are particularly suitable concerning the high probability of transferable mechanisms due to their similarity to hydrostatic skeletons such as turgor based plant biomechanics. Desirable properties to be transferred into architectural applications are, amongst others, redundancy and failure tolerance, local adaptation causing global effects, and material efficiency.

Operational energy and resource consumption can be reduced by actively adapting
lightning, temperature and ventilation to current climatic conditions. Embedded Gray energy is reduced as pneumatic constructions consist of tensile stressed membranes and air as pressure bearing medium and thereby are inherently material efficient. By adapting spatial configurations to users demands one can respond to today’s fast-paced society and accelerated variation of spatial requirements. Kinematic adaptation offers new means of expression as the buildings interaction with its environment is directly readable in its geometric configuration and could also be used as active communication with its users and the urban surrounding. The active adaptation behaviour described here continues the striving of parametric design thinking for differentiated answers to varying conditions into the build architecture.

Aim of the research is to investigate pneumatic structures regarding their potential as kinematic adaptation mechanisms for architectural applications within the previously described context of rapidly emerging computational design and digital fabrication technologies and the resulting potential for biomechanical adaptation mechanisms to be transferred into architectural applications via biomimetic methods.

Scientific Development
Institute for Computational Design – Prof. A. Menges
M. Dörstelmann