Smart materials in architecture, interior architecture and design

 Smart materials in architecture, interior architecture and design

Smart materials in architecture, interior architecture and design

This book is suitable for students, practitioners and teaching staff active in the fields of architecture, design and art: for all who are open to innovative technology, on the look out for new materials and products of use in the future or for those who just wish to be inspired. Criticism, suggestions and ideas relating to this publication are expressly welcomed.

Time and time again utopians, futurologists and even some politicians have developed scenarios of how the world of tomorrow will look. In the past they have seldom been proved right. Much of what they foresaw just never happened as they said it would. In particular this applies to the timeframes envisaged, which are usually too brief, and to the frequent predictions for worldwide omnipresence of the phenomena.
Buildings and life in our buildings have changed over the last 25 years. Apart from a few exceptions, it is not spectacular buildings and housing types that define our times, it is above all the changes in building technology and automation. Through the development of innovative materials, products and constructions, the move to endow buildings with more functions, the desire for new means of expression, and ecological and economic constraints, it is now possible to design buildings that are clearly different from those of previous decades.

We are standing at the threshold of the next generation of buildings: buildings with various degrees of high technology, which are extremely ecological in their behaviour through the intelligent use of functionally adaptive materials, products and constructions and are able to react to changes in their direct or indirect surroundings and adjust themselves to suit.

This creates new tasks for the designers and planners of these buildings, who must ensure that, in achieving what is technically feasible, sight is not lost of the well-being of the occupants and they are given the opportunity of self-determination. To do this in the design process requires knowledge and integration of as many of these parameters as possible. The central role of technology and automation of processes must not lead to people being deprived of their right to make decisions; they must be given the opportunity to step in when the need arises to have things how they would like them.
That all too sensitive adaption processes are not always advantageous can be seen with the 1987 Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) building in Paris by Jean Nouvel, which was fitted with a multitude of mechanical photo-shutters to control light transmission: people inside the building found the repeated adaption sequences a nuisance. They took place all the time, at short intervals and sometimes even under a heavily overcast sky. To cure the problem, the control was made less sensitive and the number of possible switching processes reduced.

Energy and matter flows can be optimised through the use of smart materials, as the majority of these materials and products take up energy and matter indirectly or directly from the environment. This approach does not entail any other related requirements, for example as would arise through conventionally networked automation products. Currently the use of smart material is made necessary by the wish for more automation, for compact materials and products reacting to sensors and actuators and the increasing global demand on expensive energy sources and raw materials.

Depending on the future popularity of use of smart materials and the visible effects on our buildings, our picture in relation to our built environment will change from what we are used to seeing as architecture. Metropolises like Tokyo, which is undergoing a continuous and rapid change of appearance in some districts, show that people are capable of living with permanent architectural change.


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