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Transforming Architecture: Deployable Structures

Part 2 Dissertation 2007
Esther Rivas Adrover
Oxford Brookes University Oxford | UK
In the words of the engineer and inventor Chuck Hoberman:

‘A technology for objects and structures that change their size and shape is being developed. Its potential lies in making new products, new spectacles and experiences, a new kinetic architecture. Transformation is at the hart of this technology: a metamorphosis akin to natural processes of growth and change, it is complete, fully three dimensional, fluid and continuous.
Designs, prototypes and full scale structures have been built which demonstrate the capabilities of unfolding architecture. Applications currently under development range from consumer products to architectural-scale projects. With the emphasis placed directly on the transformation process itself, a new type of object is created. By the application of a force at one or more points, it transforms in a fluid and controlled manner. Despite such ease of transformation, these structures are stable, strong and durable. Thus unfolding architecture exhibits the seemingly contradictory qualities of strength and fluidity’. (2004)

The aim of this thesis is to investigate this emerging field of deployable structures and to research, through design, their potential application in architecture.

This study will first describe what is meant by a deployable structure followed by a brief discussion about movement in architecture and the origins of current research into deployables. Following this, different typologies will be identified and grouped according to their characteristics, forming a tree diagram. This has never been done before and the intention is to create a designer’s handbook that will aid and inform the use of an appropriate deployable. This extensive research will also form the foundations of two design case study projects in which selected typologies will be studied and developed in more detail. Finally, this investigation will conclude with an exploration of various thoughts.

Esther Rivas Adrover

This dissertation identifies an area of study – deployable structures - that has yet to be explored in any substantive way by architects. The dissertation argues that deployable structures is a relatively new technological field that is highly relevant to the solving of contemporary architectural problems. The body of the dissertation provides a synthesis of existing research from outside the field of architecture by providing an original typological analysis of deployable structures as well as providing architectonic examples of their possible architectural uses. This very accessible and persuasively argued dissertation opens up new and exciting possibilities for innovative architectonic form.

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