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DESIGNER
PHILIPPE BLOCK, AXEL KILIAN, PETER SCHMITT, JOHN SNAVELY
DATE
2006
LOCATION
Cambridge, MA, USA
TYPE
experimental
USE
Kinetic column
WhoWhatWhenAIR

This 10-meter-high kinetic structure won the first Mini-Skyscraper design competition that was organized by the MIT Department of Architecture. The objective of the design team was to create a smart building with integrated control mechanisms that would be able to respond to both environmental parameters and human activity. The result was a jointed spine-like structure that has the controlled ability to bend in different directions through a series of pneumatic actuators (“muscles”). When the muscles are inactive, the rigid core of the structure keeps it stable in an upright equilibrium position. When the pumps are activated, the muscles begin to flex and retract in a smooth and precise manner, introducing a twist in the jointed core and allowing the whole structure to gently “bow”. The rigid parts of the structure that form its core consist of sculpted arms built from a lightweight fiberglass composite. The pneumatic actuators and control system were supplied by the manufacturer Festo. While in the mini version of the skyscraper actuation was mainly employed for expressive movement, in the full-scale tower such active structural components would be used to cancel out movement and stabilize the building against changing forces from wind or earthquakes.

TRANSFORMABLE DESIGN FEATURES AT A GLANCE
PRINCIPLE
PHENOMENOLOGICAL
pneumatic
ACTUAL
pneumatic
TYPE
PHENOMENOLOGICAL
pneumatic elements
ACTUAL
pneumatic elements
SYSTEM
responsive
ELEMENTS
Whole structure
Application Framework
Enclosed Space Open Space
Private Space Public Space
Passive Communication Active
Project Scale
Kinetic Elements Scale
Equipment
People
Intensity of Activity
Fluctuation of Intensity
Periodicity of Fluctuation
Design
New Design Intervention
Requires Support Self Supported
Simple Geometry Complex Geometry
Low Tech High Tech
Manual System Intelligent System
Surface Transformation
Volume Transformation
Morphological Variations
Modularity
Portability
Adaptability
Sustainability
Materials
Conventional Sophisticated
Elastic Rigid
Transparent Opaque
Warm Cold
Weight
Maintenance
Insulation
COST (estimation)

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Image source:

1, 2: http://musclesfrombrussels.blogspot.gr/

Further Reading:

http://musclesfrombrussels.blogspot.gr/
http://sap.mit.edu/resources/portfolio/muscles/