Thinking/Creating with Active Materials

Beyond Kinetic Architecture

from movable structures to vibrant matter

Karmen Franinović 20.4.2012. CAAD, ETH, Zurich

Since more then ten years, physical computing has drastically changed the way in which we use digital technologies in design and architecture. However, responsive environments and objects are still a collage of hardware components that activate their materials and structures, lights and sounds. In this seminar, I propose a shift from such integration of actuating hardware to an experimentation on the threshold between the mechanic, chemical and electronic. Working with the innate behaviours and physical properties of active materials  I suggest that form, behaviour and interaction can be designed as one, rather than separating behaviour from the physical and structural properties of materials.  In an on-going research project on custom-made materials that illuminate, sound and move when electric currents are passed through them, I discovered a profound effect that such approach can have on the creative process. I will present its outcomes: membrane structures that suggest a new kind of responsive environment that incorporates lightness, adaptability, aliveness and decay. I call such environments enactive in order to reflect both the direct exploration of matter during the design process and the exploratory experience of inhabitants of such spaces.