To better understand the porous boundaries between living and non-living systems we look to nature as a model network of interactive systems that produce no waste; observe that animals and plants have evolved a large variety of reliable and relatively simple mechanisms to adapt to environmental fluctuation; understand that the inherent complexity of biological mechanisms is an emergent property based on simple rule sets. Specifically we develop responsive building technologies that operate in accordance with the biologic condition of homeostasis –– the ability for an organism to maintain equilibrium in response to fluctuating environmental conditions.Examine some of the 150 or so tiny artifacts that you find in Dale Clifford's office at Carnegie Mellon University, and you just might find the future of architecture.1
Clifford is a leading researcher into what might be called “bio-simulant architecture,” or architecture that simulates biological processes.
We're talking about things like the facade of a building outfitted with panels that, just like leaves on a plant, react to the sun. These “solar petals” would move automatically with the sun to provide optimum glare reduction and shade, or maybe, someday, even be used to “curl up” to open the sides of a building for ventilation.
They could then go flat, closing the sides of a building when the sun goes down, and it gets cold.
Or, how about thin glass-block windows that absorb heat during the day and release it at night — and change in transparency, as well, being clear during the heat of the day but gradually turning opaque as the temperature drops.
All this fascinating work by the assistant professor of architecture at CMU is illustrated by the models of every sort — most of them representing potential building components — that neatly line the shelves and cover the big table that together make up Clifford's office.2