Shape-morphing Textiles

Interdisciplinary research workshop and seminar / 5th-7th of May 2010

Shape-Morphing Textiles was a three-day workshop & seminar organized at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture by Aurélie Mossé as part of her current PhD research on the Design of Self-Actuated Textiles.  Since then, she has been working extensively with electro-active and light responsive polymers.

Workshop motivation and overview

The workshop identified opportunities and challenges for shape-morphing materials – their design, development and applications from nano to macro-scale-.  Today, with the emergence of smart materials, the idea of a flexible environment responding to change becomes tangible. Smart textiles, responsive polymer technologies present particular assets in terms of flexibility and versatility of implementation. Bringing together a panel of international researchers from the field of polymer science, textile design and architecture, the workshop aimed at (1) developing  ideas about how we can implement shape-morphing materials and technology  into our everyday (2) to identify  the appropriate technologies to support these concepts (3) to encourage cross-disciplinary research across science and design by developing transmaterial knowledge.

This interdisciplinary event included: design and experimentation with electro-active and moisture responsive materials, scenario building and brainstorming sessions, group discussions and reflection on resilient design and the framing of the discussion through a public seminar afternoon.

Workshop scope and contribution

Together as a group we discussed:

-         The conceptualisation and programming of buildings  that sense and respond to their environment

-         the potential and limitations of  dielectric elastomers and responsive liquid crystals technologies in an architectural context

-         the challenges of climate change and the urge for adaptive architecture solutions

Through scenario building and brainstorming we developed concepts highlighting the potential of designing with energy flows, such as:

* Zephyr Based on dielectric-elastomer minimum energy structures, Zephyr is a shape-morphing screen whose constellations of reactive flaps open and close so as to temper indoor climate by filtering daylight and airflow.

* Breathe is  a double-skin structure that inflates and deflate so as to regulate the amount of air accumulated between its two inner surfaces in order to control indoor insulation according to the rhythm of the seasons.

* Aurore is a light responsive textile filtering light and privacy by coordinating with solar cycles. As the sun is rising, the textile three-dimensional surface progressively reveals apertures, allowing lighting up the interior. As sunset is taking place, the textile is looking for its flat configuration, preserving the inhabitant privacy by preventing gazes to get in.

The workshop provided a learning opportunity and a fruitful exchange of ideas among a highly qualified interdisciplinary group of researchers, which has lead to the constitution of a transmaterial cluster intending to push the agenda of shape-morphing materials for the design and control of energy flow.  The workshop further highlighted

- the value of resilient logic and the need to further develop the definition for resilient design

- that hands-on experiments are  key drivers of knowledge transfer  across disciplines

- the need for closer interactions between scientists and designers so as to increase the tightness of feedback between material conception and its product development.

Echoes from the workshop

I have learnt a lot from the workshop. Of course you could see that different products came out of the process, from who you looked at. But it was clear that everybody was looking at each others and we somehow took the best part of the others. I have found it a very good way to do it: to steal from the others, trying to optimize solutions – Anne Ladegaard Skov

Highly exploratory craftsmen had a chance to learn about possibilities and limitations with new materials. The scientists had a chance to understand possible uses of their materials and possible new roads of exploration. I have understood some fundamentals regarding the curiosity of designers. I also learned something regarding the limitations of brute-force design as opposed to focused, knowledgeable design. Quick-and-dirty can get you only so far –Guggi Kofod

What I get from working with designers is to be inspired, to work out new materials, new functions in materials and also I am curious the way they are being used, that is the first reason. – Dick Broer

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