Thinking/Creating with Active Materials

TONI Outside-In

Student workshop on Responsive Materials in Interior Design



A building is usually brought to life by its inhabitants. Its structure and materials do not change over time. New materials offer an opportunity to create spaces that do transform over short periods of time. How can such materials be used to design experiences of artificial spaces that can be as pleasant as a walk through the woods or a swim in warm sea water?


The essence of new kinds of responsive materials is their active behaviour: they can self-illuminate, self-move, change colour, etc. In other words, they can have properties of living matter, and can relate to human experience in complex and organic ways. In this course, we will design interior spaces for Toni Areal so that they embody some of the qualities of subtle transformation and adaptation found in nature.

In this course students develop interdisciplinary skills on the crossroads of industrial design, interior architecture and interaction design. Students will have a unique opportunity to learn how to create active materials that can change their behaviour, i.e. respond to people, information, sun, rain… These materials will be developed together with interior design concepts for Toni, the future ZHdK home-base.


This course is based on a do-it-yourself approach: rather than purchasing sophisticated smart materials, students will make them themselves and integrate them into an interior design project. We will explore the application of smart materials in design and their ability to transform spaces into responsive and adaptive environments. By building active materials from scratch, we will design their behaviour while experimenting on the boundary between the electronic and mechanic, the analogue and the digital.

Organized by: Karmen Franinovic and Luke Franzke

Guest Lecturers: Dana Gordon and Marcelo Coelho

Participants: Interaction and Product Design students, Zurich University of the Arts