Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 25–39 | Cite as

Two Design Experiments in Playful Architectural Adaptability

  • Andrew Viny
  • Avanti Dabholkar
  • Daniel Cardoso Llach
Architecture In-Play


This paper presents two design experiments in playful architectural adaptability. The first is a tangible computational interface for the design of artifacts such as chairs. Framed within user-driven customization precedents and literature, it suggests ways in which computation can enable new ways of interacting with design knowledge. The second is an architectural installation that uses biometric data from human bodies to dynamically transform an occupant’s experience of an enclosed space. Documenting the development of a series of prototypes, this experiment outlines an area of design inquiry we term “biometrically-responsive architecture”, linking architectural spaces and the human body in new ways. Combining methods from architecture and computation, and emphasizing open-ended bodily interactions over symbolic transactions and goal-driven optimization, these two experiments outline ways in which architectural artifacts and spaces can interact with human designers and occupants in playful ways.


Computational design Interactive architecture Mass-customization Design pedagogy Collaborative design Biometrics Responsive architecture Sensory mapping 



The authors wish to thank Jeremy Ficca, Eddy Man Kim, Eric Brockmeyer and Scott Hudson who, as members of the advisory team, helped shape the projects described through both technical and conceptual contributions. Thanks to Mary-Lou Arscott, Dana Cupkova, Kai Gutschow and Art Lubetz for invaluable feedback and encouragement for these projects as members of the thesis faculty team. Thanks to Steve Lee for supporting a thesis studio open to experimental and speculative work. The ‘Biometric Architecture’ prototypes were produced with the support of the 2016 Fourth Year Design Award obtained by the second author, enabled by a generous gift by the Burdett Family to the Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture.


  1. Adidas 2015. Future Craft. Accessed November 15, 2015.
  2. Alexander, Christopher. Notes on the Synthesis of Form. Harvard University Press, 1964.Google Scholar
  3. Beesley, Philip, Hayley Isaacs, Pernilla Ohrstedt, and Rob Gorbet. 2010. Hylozoic Ground: Liminal Responsive Architecture: Philip Beesley. Cambridge, Ont.: Riverside Architectural Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cardoso Llach, Daniel. 2011. Inertia of an Automated Utopia: Design Commodities and Authorial Agency 40 Years after the Architecture Machine. Thresholds 39 (July 2011): 39–44.Google Scholar
  5. Cardoso Llach, Daniel. 2015. Builders of the Vision: Software and the Imagination of Design. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Cheng, N., S. Follmer, H. Ishii, D. Leithinger, and A. Olwal. 2012. Jamming User Interfaces: Programmable Particle Stiffness and Sensing for Malleable and Shape Changing Devices. In: Proceedings UIST’12, 519–528.Google Scholar
  7. Crayton, Tim. 2001. The Design Implications of Mass Customization. DesignIntelligence. May 1, 2001. Accessed September 07, 2015.
  8. Diller, Elizabeth, and Ricardo Scofidio. 2002. Blur: The Making of Nothing. New York: Harry N. Abrams.Google Scholar
  9. Fox, Michael, and Miles Kemp. 2009. Interactive Architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gershenfeld, Neil. 2007. Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your DesktopFrom Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  11. Gross, Mark, D., Golan Levin, Karl, D.D. Willis, Kuan-Ju Wu, and Cheng Xu. 2011. Interactive Fabrication: New Interfaces for Digital Fabrication, In: Proceedings TEI’11, 69–72.Google Scholar
  12. Kaye, Joseph Nathaniel. 2001. Symbolic Olfactory Display. PhD thesis, MIT.Google Scholar
  13. Llamas, I., B. Kim, J. Gargus, J. Rossignac and C. D. Shaw. 2003. Twister: a Space-Warp Operator for the Two–Handed Editing of 3D shapes. ACM Transactions on Graphics 22 (3): 663–668.Google Scholar
  14. March, Lionel, and Philip Steadman. 1971. Geometry of Environment. London: RIBA Enterprises.Google Scholar
  15. MIT Media Lab: Affective Computing Group. Accessed May 07, 2016.
  16. Motorola. 2013. Motomaker. Accessed October 01, 2015.
  17. Negroponte, Nicholas. 1970. The Architecture Machine. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.Google Scholar
  18. Negroponte, Nicholas. 1975. Soft Architecture Machines. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  19. Philip Rahm International. 2008. Convective Museum. Accessed May 07, 2016.
  20. Saul, Greg. 2011. SketchChair. Diatom Studio. Accessed January 07, 2016.
  21. Scott, Felicity D. 2013. Discourse, Seek, Interact: Urban Systems at MIT. In: A Second Modernism, 342–393. Cambridge, Mass: SA + P Press and MIT Press.Google Scholar
  22. Sheng, J., R. Balakrishnan, and K. Singh. 2006. An Interface for Virtual 3D Sculpting via Physical Proxy. Graphite (2006): 213–220.Google Scholar
  23. Smith, R.T., B.H. Thomas, and W. Piekarski. 2008. Digital Foam Interaction Techniques for 3D Modeling. In: VRST ‘08, Proceedings of the 2008 Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology, 61–68.Google Scholar
  24. Steenson, Molly. 2014. Architectures of information: Christopher Alexander, Cedric Price, and Nicholas Negroponte and MIT’S Architecture Machine Group. PhD thesis, Princeton University.Google Scholar
  25. Sutherland, I. 1965. The Ultimate Display. In: Proceedings of the IFIP Congress, 506–508.Google Scholar
  26. Turner, Fred. 2013. The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Vardouli, Theodora. 2012. Design-for-Empowerment-for-Design: Computational Structures for Design Democratization. Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  28. Weiser, Mark. 1991. The Computer of the 21st Century. Scientific American 265(3): 66–75.Google Scholar
  29. Woodward, Richard. 2005. Do Americans Desire Homogeneity? Evidence from Names from 1900–2000. Economics Bulletin 4(9): 1–6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kim Williams Books, Turin 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.201 College of Fine ArtsCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations