Material Dynamics in Architecture | The Plan Journal

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Vera Parlac

 Integration of “active” materials into architectural assemblies could have a transformative effect on how we experience dynamics of the built environment. Material actuation offers a different way of generating dynamics in architectural surfaces and components. It operates without a need for multiple mechanical components. Active materials such as Shape Memory Alloy (SMA), electroactive polymers, bimetals, or even natural materials such as wood, have been explored in experimental and research projects focused on dynamic architectural assemblies. This paper focuses on SMA and considers several distinct approaches to integrating it into surfaces/elements and how its capacity to change a length or shape can be used to kinetically activate material systems. It provides an overview of a number of projects and prototypes that use SMA actuation and examines the challenges and opportunities presented by its use. The goal of this paper is to bring new insights into material-based actuation of dynamic material systems. Therefore, it offers a comparative discussion of SMA actuation and attempts to categorize their possible use in architectural assemblies.