Imagine a building that expands to provide a more airy space in the warmth but contracts to reduce heating bills when it gets cold. Well, that's almost what this prototype, called, Translated Geometries, is designed to do.
A concept by Ece Tankal, Efilena Baseta and Ramin Shambayati at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalunya uses Shape Memory Polymers to create a structure that changes shape according with ambient temperatures. The material -- in this case a modern twist on plywood -- can become flexible at high enough temperatures, allowing the overall structure to bend and twist into new shapes.
Here, then, when the structure's surface reaches 60C to 70C it becomes flexible enough to undergo geometric deformations -- an origami structure that initially twitches than graciously unfurls. When it cools, it maintains the same shape. To contract back down to size, another round of heating is currently required, upon which the structure returns to its original shape -- the memory in the Shape Memory Polymers really kicking in.
That's not perfect in term of response to environment, but it's a great first step towards "an architecture that isn't so rigid, that tries to be more attuned with its environment", as Shambayati puts it. That means that in the future, we might expect to see buildings that can change shape by themselves -- with no need for extra sensors or automation at all. [WIRED]