When Architecture goes Beyond
It has long been recognized that architects work to fulfil functional and aesthetic requirements in the production of space, as stated by Vitruvius in his “Ten Books on Architecture”. In so doing, it is widely accepted that architecture exists as a static condition. Buildings are increasingly trying to more efficiently conform to the nature, and its environment. Dr. Dan Lockton suggests in his PhD thesis that such a static built environment, whether in the architectural or urban scale, influences behaviour and well-being. In 1924, Winston Churchill stated its influence upon human character and action: “we make our buildings and afterwards they make us. They regulate the course of our lives”. The potential for a responsive architecture that mimics living systems to meet such functional concerns has been less thoughtfully examined. Therefore, both “The reEarth Project” and “The Exoskeleton of Life” portray the study of architectures that interact with humans, respond to living organisms and respect the environment, leveraging the characteristics of the geodesic sphere and, consequently, all living things’ welfare.
The formal importance of the geodesic sphere in the last century was brought to the world as an efficient solution to ecological problems, as stated in this blog. Along with every technological assumption behind such object, it worked as a symbol, a representation of technical efficiency while the modernist architecture – that basically ruled the twentieth century – was facing its golden years in the history of architecture.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Le Corbusier dictated the rules of modern architecture based on his ideas about how to live in an industrialized world (Le Corbusier, 1926). The most relevant point to this work proposes that a building should give back the space it takes up on the ground by replacing it with a garden in the sky (Le Corbusier, 1926). In other words, the roof of the building should feature the same amount of green space that its ground floor has taken with its implantation. A geodesic sphere behaves in a very different way: the surface area of the upper half of the sphere (dome) is nearly 8 times greater than the triangular area that touches the floor. In terms of volume, the proportion is even greater: the volume of the triangular region that touches the ground (Fig. A – base of the triangle multiplied by its height) is nearly 28 times lesser than the volume of the whole sphere (Fig. B).
In that sense, “The reEarth Project” design is an exponential increaser of Le Corbusier’s rule. The geodesic sphere, based upon the idea of “doing more with less”, is a spherical structure created from triangles, owning unparalleled strength. The “doing more with less” principle encloses the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area thus saving on materials and cost. It is one of the most efficient interior atmospheres for human dwellings because air and energy are allowed to circulate without obstruction (B.F. Institute, Online). In sum, the geodesic sphere was brought as an efficient solution to ecological problems (Fuller, 1969). It has the ability to expand the volume that it takes from the surface where it’s resting on while it reinforces the sense of protection that domes and spherical structures own. Such technology transpires efficiency, saving on materials and cost. So, what can we do in order to magnify these important characteristics?
The answer for this question lies in the idea of taking the geodesic sphere to a next level: making an architecture symbol evolve by giving it the ability to move away from its normal static state. The 20th century functionality, represented by the geodesic sphere as a successful solution for these constraints (Petit, 2014), should conform to the 21st century technological advances. In this sense, architectures are not conceived as purely static structures anymore. They could better harmonize with nature, its environment and humans, autonomously taking its place within an urban and social context. The approach is to make plants become a social figure that has the ability to autonomously interact and, therefore, coexist among us.
ReEarth consistis in a geodesic sphere that turns into an exoskeleton, a vessel, which proposes the ideal analogy with the planet Earth. “The Exoskeleton of Life” is a limited architectural space that encloses, protects and transports a kinetic garden that continuously interacts with the external environment. It contains an inner core, an outer core and a crust, and promotes a translation-like movement actuated by living organisms (plants, in this case). Environmental feedback helps to generate behaviours and repopulate a specific region with seeds of the plants contained within it. In addition, it makes people aware of the importance of plants, embodied as a self-reliant living thing that actively contributes and participates in our society.
The ability of gathering information from plants through electrophysiological readings is a strong and potentially efficient feature. “The reEarth Project” is a metaphorical and functional interpretation of ecological systems rendered by an intelligent piece of both architecture and landscape. The implications of such development are enormous: as such, buildings can be idealized with technologies that respond and interact in real time with nature, leveraging their global comfort efficiency, preserving natural resources and enhancing individuals’ behaviour and well-being.
Vitruvius, P. and Morgan, M. H. (1960). Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture. Book.
Fuller, R. B. (1969). Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Book.
Le Corbusier (1926). Five Points towards a New Architecture. Manifesto.
Petit, E. (2014). Under the Dome: The Architecture of an Other Modernity [Video File]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/116871847
The Buckminster Fuller Institute. [Website – Online]. Available at: https://bfi.org/