March 5, 2017

Climate-responsive wood apertures

Although most environmentally responsive technologies rely on complex mechanical assemblies of inert materials, such as mechanical louvers or sunshades, HygroSkin demonstrates the reactive capabilities of a material itself. The hygroscopic behavior of wood, which causes it to swell and curl when moist, is the driving force behind this novel autonomic aperture system inspired by a biological precedent. Developed by Achim Menges, Oliver David Krieg, and Steffen Reichert for a demonstration pavilion, the HygroSkin approach is loosely based on the spruce cone’s passive response to climate, in which its seed scales open and close based on changes in humidity.

Assemblies of delicate plywood-veneer scales are set within a robotically crafted envelope composed of concave plywood sheets. These hygroscopic scales react to a shifting humidity range between 30 and 90 percent, equivalent to the difference between clear and rainy weather in moderate climatic zones. In the pavilion, 1,100 scales are distributed among twenty-eight geometrically unique building components. As the petals adjust, they regulate the amount of direct light exposure, view access, and natural ventilation to the interior. Thus, this meteorologically sensitive behavior represents the bridging between environmental and spatial phenomena, all based on an entirely passive process. In HygroSkin, the material has become the machine.

Contact: Achim Menges Architect BDA, Frankfurt, Germany.

For more information, see Transmaterial Next: A Catalog of Materials that Redefine Our Future

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