Imagine a building with a façade that opens and closes like a flower blooming. It feels like the building is alive, but in reality, it's just inspired by life. A material that can make this happen actually does exist -- it's called Flectofin, and it's based on a flower called the Bird of Paradise.
Flectofin's been around for about a year, but was just awarded with the first ever Gips-Schüle Research Prize. The basic concept behind Flectofin is relatively simple, but it's proven elusive in the world of architecture and design. Essentially, it's a façade shading system that swings open and closed based on the position of louvers attached to a bendable rod. Turning the louver down bends the rod and opens the Flectofin surface, while turning it up straightens the rod which swings the Flectofin closed.
This is exactly how the flowers on a Bird of Prey behave. The petals of the flower are usually straight, keeping the pollen inside, but when a bird comes and perches on them, the petals bend down, opening the compartment that holds the pollen. Ideally, the pollen then transfers to the bird, who flies away to pollinate another flower.
So far, Flectofin's been seen in action in various degrees around the world. The most dramatic application is perhaps the Theme Pavilion (below), one of the central buildings at the Expo 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea, which was designed by Vienna-based soma architecture. When pressure is applied to pieces of the glass-reinforced plastic façade -- which are shaped very much like bird of prey petals -- the entire façade opens, and it closes when the pressure is released. Since the system has no joints or hinges, it won't wear out as quickly, and the bionic design gives it a light, airy feel.
With fresh accolades, Flectofin is bound to show up in more applications in the coming years. Surely, it'll be popular in the ever-expanding genre of flower-shaped buildings. Or maybe it'll just be used to make really sweet shades for your office. [Science Daily]
Pictures: soma architecture