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The Language of Architecture by Val Warke, Andrea Simitch

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While the material of architecture might be predomi-
nantly static—concrete, steel, stone, glass, wood—the
experience of architecture can be a highly dynamic
one. Architecture has the capacity to transform from
minute to minute, day to day, year to year.
Transformations occur at multiple scales, from the smallest particle to an entire building,
and at any interval, from a one-time event to a cyclical transformation.
18
transformation
These transformations can be literal, implied,
or often both. In other words, a panel can
slide from one position to another, or as light
moves across its surface, it can transform
from reflective solid to transparent. But in all
cases, this transformative capacity can
sponsor alternative programs, inhabitations,
appearances, and performances—in other
words, architecture really is never very static
at all.
Literal
A kinetic architecture not only registers and
adapts to the effects of external stimuli but it
also provokes behaviors as a function of its
transformation. External stimuli can be
environmental (shutters adapting to the
movement of the Sun), programmatic (a
train compartment transforms from living
room by day to bedroom by night with the
lowering of the bunks), or spatial (a volume
enlarges as its occupancy increases).
Transformations occur at multiple scales,
from the smallest particle to an entire
building, and at any interval, from a one-
time event to a cyclical transformation.
For example, it is very common in modern
theaters for the audience/performance
relationship to be physically altered by
rotating stages, lifts, and movable loge
seating; while projection technologies can
perceptually alter the sense of enclosure,
weather, and time.
Temporal (Animation)
Architecture registers the passage of time.
Embedded within its transformations are the
traces of human rituals and environmental
stimuli. The sliding, rotating, opening, and
closing of surfaces have the ability to
transform spatial scales and relationships,
determine conditions of public and private,
and transform functions and operations.
Topological
Architectural space, form, and surface can
also transform through the deformation of
underlying structural patterns, based on
mathematical models that subsequently
inform the qualitative aspects of such
patterns. As an alternative to literal
allowing for both personalized
orientations and environ-
mental responsiveness.
The origamilike surface
continually transforms the
experience of the building
and the landscape from
within and from without.
Ernst Giselbrecht in 2005–07
created the “Dynamic
Façade” for the Kiefer
Technic Showroom in Bad
Gleichenberg, Austria. Here
an independent surface of
perforated light metal bifold
panels can be positioned in
an infinite variety of ways,
By inserting a series of full-
height steel doors into the
vast, seemingly limitless
space of the former
slaughterhouse structure,
Iñaqui Carnicero’s 2012
Hangar 16 in Madrid, Spain,
creates multiple spatial
readings that also facilitate a
range of programmatic scales—
from intimate art openings to
full-blown rock concerts.
THE LANGUAGE OF ARCHITECTURE
153152
movement, these seamless physical
transformations produce a fluidity of form
where walls become floors become ceilings
as they respond to programmatic stimuli.
Smart Materials
Programmable materials—synthetic materials
that can be “stitched” into everyday materials
and that self-activate when exposed to heat,
water, and electricity—transform the surfaces
and forms into which they are embedded
through processes such as contracting,
swelling, and thinning. Often these
activations occur at the nanoscopic scale—
the scale at which particles, hence material,
undergo change.
Implied
Architecture transforms in nonkinetic ways
as well, where the implication of transforma-
tion can reside in programmatic, formal, or
perceptual interpretations.
Programmatic
Buildings that undergo programmatic
transformation appropriate elements that
were once designed for another specific
purpose. For example, light projected
through the stained glass windows of a
church-turned-nightclub transforms the
meaning of those windows from religious
texts to disco balls. While nothing has
physically changed, it is the context of the
experience that transforms ones perception
of the work.
furnishings transform to
serve multiple spatial and
functional programs. The
entry hall’s extendable
wardrobe expands to
accommodate its changing
contents, but in doing so,
transforms the entry hall’s
spatial sequence.
absorbing material equips
the resulting composite
material with a built-in
functionality when exposed
to water, one that, when
multiplied and introduced
over a larger territory,
anticipates the transfor-
mation of form as it responds
to external stimuli.
Eileen Gray’s expanding
wardrobes in Tempe à
Pailla—the house she
designed for herself in
Castelar, France, from
1932–34, are but one example
of an interior conceived as
an enormous piece of
furniture—where both
surfaces and freestanding
In 2013, Skylar Tibbits of the
Self Assembly Lab at MIT,
along with Stratasys and
Autodesk Inc., have
developed a process whereby
a composite material can
expand and deform according
to preprogrammed constraints.
The binding together of a
malleable material with a
polymer-based, water-
18
Transformation

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