PneuSystems is a prototype-based exploration into the performative, formal and aesthetic potentials for cellular pneumatic membrane-based aggregate systems towards deep, lightweight and adaptive architectural skins. The work is situated within the history and technology of pneumatic structures, the register and exchange of matter, energy and information, and the application of biological paradigms towards architectural innovation. Our interest is in exploring architectures of soft aggregate bodies, sensitive to frequencies and periodicities, to situated and extrinsic energies, and in developing architectural constructs that simultaneously support instrumentality and affinity, performativity and affect, explicit and implicit knowledge, technological optimism and the uncanny.
The project is developed through several interdependent streams of research. First is the development of nested cellular aggregates that offer alternative models to cushion-based or foam packing geometries. Second are combinatory approaches for computational simulation, design and energy performance of pneumatic structures through iterative feedback between digital and physical models. Third is an exploration of techniques for rapid physical prototyping of pneu models, and the development of custom tools and jigs. Fourth, is the exploration of biological models for adaptation in pneumatic skins. These include physical adaptation such as variable thermal control, air exchange and biaxial motion achieved through combinations of air pressure and geometry in cells, as well as intelligence-based algorithms for environmental and human adaptation explored through integrated technologies for sensing, control and response.
In favoring flexibility over firmness this responsive architecture challenges traditional architectural values. It advocates for an architecture whose main virtue lies not in Vitruvian “firmitas“ but in its ability to be in-firm; to not resist change, but to embrace change as its ally.
Kathy Velikov, Geoffrey Thün, and Santinder Singh Baveja (UM College of Engineering)
Project Team: John Hilmes, Christina Kull, Dan McTavish, Eric Meyer, Mary O’Malley, Yunzhi Ou, Nick Safley, Michael Sanderson, Wiltrud Simebreuger