Responsive autonomous surface structures inspired by passive multi-phase plant movements

The built environment is responsible for a major part of global energy consumption, which makes weather responsive adaptive building envelops increasingly important. While weather responsive architecture is typically conceived as an added function with numerous sensing, actuating and regulating devices, a fundamentally different design strategy for environmental responsiveness has evolved in biological systems. Hygroscopically actuated plant structures present highly relevant biological concept generators for the development of weather-adaptive, autonomously actuated, passive building envelopes that require neither mechanically movable parts and electronic control nor operational energy.

The aim of this project is to identify construction and functional principles of plant structures at various hierarchical levels that will be abstracted and implemented into architecture. Our focus is on structures that perform multi-phase motion, i.e. sequences of diverse motion steps. In order to achieve this goal, this research project brings together plant biomechanics, structural mechanics, chemistry, and computational design and digital fabrication. A comparative analysis of the various functional principles will form the basis for establishing parametric geometrical, topological, kinematic and mechanical models. Such a thorough quantitative analysis, simulation and abstraction of multi-phase motion principles will enable the design of biomimetic devices with tailored multi-phase motion responses and lead to a better understanding of the model plants. In order to achieve the transfer to technology, the development of a new class of 3D-printable hydrogel assemblies, as well as their integration in new environmentally responsive architectural envelopes will be undertaken.


Institute for Computational Design and Construction, University of Stuttgart

Yasaman Tahouni, Dylan Wood, Prof. A. Menges

Plant Biomechanics Group Freiburg, University of Freiburg

Prof. Dr. T. Speck

Institute for Structural Mechanics, University of Stuttgart

Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. M. Bischoff

Department of Microsystems Engineering, Chemistry and Physics of Interfaces, University of Freiburg

Prof. Dr. J. Rühe



Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst (MWK)