Research journal entry 8- WALLS THAT RESPOND

Movement and the facade of the building: at first glance the two things don’t really work, especially as my building is to have as low emissions as possible and this requires airtightness and insulation.

But now I have started to research interactive technology.

After watching Carlo Ratti’s TED talk on his work with his team at the SENSEable City lab, it made me think about the potential interactive response my building could have with people.

Carlo Ratti demonstrating the opening of the curtain of water due to sensors

Carlo Ratti demonstrating the opening of the curtain of water due to sensors

One of Ratti’s recent projects has been built in Zaragoza, Spain which involve using sensors within a building which has a facade of falling water, instead of doors. When not approached by people, the building continues to cascade water forming digital patterns within the facade, but as soon as a person comes close enough to entering, the wall of water parts to let them in, like an automatic glass door.

This is one of many interactive facades which are being developed.


The CROMA group at MIT are looking to develop the ‘smart organic window’- a window made up of  electrochromic organic polymers which respond to changes in the surrounding environment. This could be anything from touch to motion to changes in the position of the sun.

The structure of a electrochromic window

The structure of a electrochromic window

Electrochromic devices change in a way that can be reversed when an electric current is applied and flows through them. This can be used in a window when a thin layer of the electrochromic material runs through the layers of glass and a sensor film is placed on the outside of the glass which is to respond. This material can then be made to change a property, for example opacity, according to how the sensor is programmed. This means that it can respond to motion on the sensor side of the glass, or even be programmed manually to regulate the amount of sunlight that enters the building. (more information:


Another interactive window that is already widely used is that of the interactive projection foil. This involves a foil being applied to the window and interactive screens projected onto them. The foil comes in both: opaque, with different properties, and transparent forms. These respond to touch and motion.

The Diesel window display with its use of interactive screens

The Diesel window display with its use of interactive screens


How can I apply this to my building?

The thing that my building lacks is movement. Fabric is a very tactile material which changes completely with a single movement or touch. This movement being such a huge part of the attraction of fabric, I have to incorporate it in my building.

The exterior walls of my building have the form, but Im not sure the can be open to movement as this will affect the whole security and energy efficiency of the structure. Therefore, the movement must come from the windows, or an added aspect to the main structure of the exterior walls.

Interactive windows would be a perfect solution to the static problem of my building, if they could be somehow designed to  move with people who pass them.

One solution could be combining the technology of the electrochromic devices and the back projected interactive film. These could be programmed so that a curtain could be projected onto the window and, as people pass by, it ‘opens’ to reveal the view of the inside. This would obviously only apply to the windows with a view onto the street.


Another way of using the technology could be that the curtains merely swish as a person walks by, but If a person makes a gesture to move the curtain up, the inside is then revealed.

On the other hand, the device can just be programmed to swing, as fabric does, slightly rippling, and can be instead controlled from the inside if a person wants to uncover the window, they make the gesture to do so.

These would all ideally be done so that the windows continue to let light inside but control the view from the outside to in, as mirrored glass or opaque glass may do.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s