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Harvard Student Talks Rearrangeable Building

Friday, June 8, 2018

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With the changing demands of architecture in mind, Harvard Graduate School of Design student Stanislas Chaillou proposed that today’s technology could help innovate spaces that adapt to needs as they arise.

In his project “Metabolism(S): Flexibility in the Century,” Chaillou proposed a design for The Synaptic Building—a mixed-use urban facility that adjusts its spatial arrangements to changing usage patterns throughout the day.

Changing Architecture

Inspired by the 20th-century Japanese Metabolist movement, Chaillou noted that the movement’s goals are finally within reach, thanks to the use of modern data science to model and predict usage patterns, as well as the deployment of automated technology and the development of semi-autonomous robotics.

In Chaillou’s Synaptic Building, machine-learning algorithms use occupancy data to create a schedule for how spaces are arranged at specific times: the ground floor sees motorized retail units organize themselves into a grid before business begins, spreading themselves for restaurant seating during mealtimes and then moving back into a compact layout for after-hours storage.

The building is designed with a minimal footprint in mind, while still accounting for vertical circulation areas and fixed surfaces, including plumbing, wiring and HVAC. Steel vaults rise and expand to support each stacked floor plate. Additional floors can be added to the top of the building later, as needed.

Typically, the structure would be five or six stories tall, with a series of LED lights spread across the ceiling, offering lighting control.

Building Functionality

“The ideal scheme of the metabolic building is derived from an analogy with biology and nature: a tree,” Chaillou’s website notes. “The core, the vertical circulation and the serving functions would be hosted in a trunk-like megastructure, on to which prefabricated-habitation capsules would be added, and ultimately replaced. From the “trunk” (core) to the “branches” (units), concerns of function and lifespan are radically distinct: the core is long-lasting while the units are interchangeable. The core serves the units for access and structural support.”

The building’s flexibility more stems from its ability to change its floor plan arrangements, rather than the later addition of extra floors. Similar to Gerrit Rietveld’s Schröder House, the idea works around the execution of relocating or removing walls and partitions to create as much open floor space as possible.

As for the future, Chaillou noted that architects “will soon have to surpass their current set of skills to understand the future users’ behavioral patterns and cycles and adapt their building conception accordingly.”


Tagged categories: Architecture; Color + Design; Design build; Robotics

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