Book review: Flexible, Architecture that Responds to Change

0laurencekingpu.jpgFlexible, Architecture that Responds to Change, by Robert Kronenburg.
(Amazon USA and UK.)

Editor (Laurence King Publishing)’s blurb: Flexible architecture adapts to new uses, responds to change rather than stagnating, and is motive rather than static. Understanding how it has been conceived, designed, made, and used helps us understand its potential in solving current and future problems associated with technological, social, and economic change. This book explores the whole genre of flexible architecture buildings that are intended to respond to evolving situations in their form, operation, or location. Crossing the boundaries between architecture, interior design, product design, and furniture design, this innovative book is the first to deal with the entire scope of the topic.0pikapikap.jpg

The hologram of a football stadium on the cover of a book that deals –among others– with responsive architecture! I was not sure at all whether it was a genius idea. The image does get your attention though but it also shouts “hey, i’m hip and a bit superficial”. Fortunately the content of Flexible is nothing of the latter. And it is not any football stadium anyway.

The author, Robert Kronenburg, while he began working on the book in 2000, has actually been exploring the topic for two decades and it shows. The book is well-researched, precise and it encompasses all the aspects of flexible architecture: geographical, chronological and cultural. Although Kronenburg never hesitates to go into technological details, the explanations are always clear and easy to grasp. None of that puts too much strain on your grey cells yet you feel like you’re getting much smarter with every page you turn. Me likey!

It’s also one of those books you enjoy either by just flipping through to have a peek at the images and discover projects you had never heard of or by reading it religiously, from page 1 to 231.

The first part of the book goes beyond the swanky interactive screens and explores the historical, cultural and social context that has shaped contemporary design and architecture. Mobility reflects human civilization’s tendency towards change and is nothing new, especially if you take a look outside our static Western culture… think about the Yurt or the traditional Japanese home with its tatami and flexible items of furniture that can be moved around to better respond to the inhabitants’ needs and which probably have them engaged in a more meaningful way with their dwelling.

0ainsindebooo.jpgInside the book

The second part is organized around 4 key factors that characterize flexible architecture: Adaptation (to better respond to various functions, uses and requirements of the building), Transformation (with alterations of the the shape, volume, form or appearance of the building), Movability (an important aspect when you think that a building is one of the most immovable artefacts of our culture) and Interaction. The chapter about interaction encompasses both the inside and the outside of the house. The use of intelligent systems, whether automatic or intuitive, in architectural practice owes a lot to researches from other fields, in particular the automotive industry. That interactivity might be guided by many factors that range from the need to control the use of energy to a mere desire to change the appearance of the building by the overlay of changing images and patterns.

00aasinside.jpgInside 24H Architecture’s “accordion” house

Image on the right side is Pika Pika Pretzel, by Klein Dytham architecture.

Related: Book review: Responsive Environments: Architecture, Art and Design.