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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Moving Structure – Pavel Hladik

  • On January 9, 2007

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I’m always interested in kinetic architecture so I was excited to hear about Pavel Hladik’s current project which investigates the possibility of material systems that could enable new forms of interactive environment. This project aims to find an elegant and more effective solution that can realize a controlled flexible environment. Pavel uses shape memory alloys (SMA) to create moving structures. The assembly represents an interactive structure with emergent properties. While still at a research stage, I look forward to seeing how it develops, here are more details on the project.

The material system consists of components (from spirals of SMA) that affect each other. The SMA used in the project is a material consisting of three metals: nickel, titanium, copper (NiTiCu). Because of the characteristic of the alloy the deformation could be up to 5%. The material features two structures: the Hot shape and the Cold shape. The cold shape structure is very soft and could be deformed under load pressure whereas the hot shape determines the final position of the structure. The final result is coded to the SMA during the process of its production.

Components are assembled to create an electrical circuit in addition with lightweight conductive fibers. NiTiCu spirals serve as resistance wires. Therefore they are gradually heated. The stability is provided by lock joints and Teflon foil which serves against buckling of the whole assembly. Moreover, there is a variant with strong strings that hold the particles together. Physical representative models tested the pattern as well as possibilities for assembling the position and size of components. The proposed system opens a discussion regarding the division of environments and space. The structure could be used as an “intelligent” interior division or an environmentally sensitive shelter.


The design of the moving structure takes advantage of the Teflon foils and Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs) NiTiCu. This structure is fixed to the ground or to another structure and is a part of the electrical circuit. The reactions controlled by computer are caused by the various circuits which connect the members of spirals of SMAs. The members are covered by the layered Teflon foil which is welded to the shape which is determined by the critical shape of the whole structure.

The structure changes the shape continuously between the two critical positions. The SMAs change the shape according to the transformation temperature caused by the current passage. The deformation is about 5% but using spirals multiply the result. The transformation temperature is 30°C and that is why the spirals are covered with the heat protection covering. Two conditions of the structure come out from the characteristics of NiTiCu – the cold shape and the hot shape. The structure could be packed and transported during the cold shape position. The spirals of SMAs are welded to the joints which are connected by the system of locks which provides the stiffness of the whole structure. The structure is multilevel, and allotted chains determine the critical shape.


  1. riy

    i was wandering what the span for this material is? what are the restrictions to using it? and how about energy conservation; the amount of energy required? and has this material been implemented in any building yet?

  2. I don’t know but would be interested to hear if you do find out

  3. Hem

    Hi I’m a bachelor of architecture student(India)and I’m also interested in architecture in motion. I want to take a research in the same. Can you help me out with?

  4. Have you considered applying to IAlab’s Masters programme

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