Responsive Architecture: The Latest Trend in the Architecture Industry

Translated from French by Abha Vardhan (2019)

Constructions and buildings not only offer shape and protection from outside weather conditions, but they have a number of functions along with a large number of circumstances to acclimate and react to.

Nowadays, structure designers and architectures have shifted from being only functional to being smart with the changing trends. The climatic conditions are continuously changing and therefore architects are required to make needed changes in their building construction strategies.

The good thing is that the field of architecture has been evolving since it came into existence. It has developed and progressed to meet the changing requirements of developing towns and people.

The complexities of current living with the changing climatic conditions have made it necessary for architects to create structures and buildings that match the current conditions.

What Is Responsive Architecture?

Responsive architecture is a developing branch of architectural engineering and research. Architects who practice responsive architecture are the people who analyze the true conditions of the surroundings through sensors in order to let buildings adjust their color, characteristics, and shape with the help of actuators.

The main objective of responsive architecture is to improve and enhance the principles of architecture engineering. It is done by enhancing the performance of structures and buildings with the assistance of responsive technologies such as actuators, control systems, and sensors in order to create buildings that imitate the technical and traditional settings of our time.

The working of responsive architectures is different from other forms of interactive strategies by integrating smart and responsive policies into the basic elements of the structure. For instance, with the incorporation of responsive technologies into structural systems of buildings, architects will be able to directly associate the shape of the structure to its surroundings.

Instead of implementing this smart technology into the existing version of the structure, architects are trying to incorporate the technology while designing and constructing the space.


As defined by several intellectuals, responsive architecture is defined as an architectural study that exhibits the capability to transform its shape to constantly reflect the close environmental circumstances.

The person who first came up with the term ‘responsive architecture’ was Nicholas Negroponte in 1960 when he was exploring spatial design issues by using cybernetics with architecture. According to Nicholas, responsive architecture is the expected result of the implementation of computing power into buildings and spaces, and it results in more well-organized and balanced structures.

Negroponte also suggested the basics of contextual variation, intention, and recognition in the field of computer science and its incorporation into architecture. This blend of ideas worked for more than eight years. This also results in numerous significant theories, and it can be said that the inputs of Nicholas Negroponte are the most crucial to architecture. His theories and principles have shifted the field of architecture in a methodical, practical, technical and motivated direction.

After the contribution of Nicholas towards responsive architecture, innovative works in the same field have appeared as creative projects instead of functional ones.

The efforts of NOX (The Freshwater Pavilion, NL), dECOi (Aegis Hypo-Surface) and Diller & Scofidio (Blur), are all categorized as responsive architecture types. The mechanisms proposed by these people check the variations of the surroundings and change the shape of the structure in reaction to these disparities.

Diller & Scofidio proposed the Blur Project, which is dependent on the responsive characteristics of a cloud to alter the shape when propelling in the wind. The work of dECOi exhibits a project, which is made responsive with the assistance of a programmable façade. Similarly, the project of NOX made use of a programmable audio-visual interior.

Such projects are dependent on the capability of computers to constantly calculate and link digital models to the practical situation and the events that cause it.

The title of the latest introductory discourse by Tristan d'Estree Sterk (ACADIA 2009) was "Thoughts for Generation X - Speculating on the Emergence of Modern Architecture Theory". This theory defines the expansion of the application of responsive systems and their past in association with the latest architectural principles.

The Latest Projects

Over the last few years, experts have dedicated a lot of their time and efforts to creating appliances and ideas for smart homes; however, the importance should have been the progress of computerized systems and electronics to acclimatize the interior of the structure and rooms to suit the needs of the home residents.

The latest exploration on the subject of responsive architecture has opened ways to implement smart ideas to the structure of the building itself and its capability to adjust to the varying weather conditions such as changing heat, light, and cold.

Theoretically, it can be accomplished by planning buildings comprising of rods and strings that would twist in reaction to the changing weather conditions such as wind and allocate the weight the same way a tree would. In a similar manner, the windows will react to light and open and close accordingly to provide needed heating and lighting conditions inside the room.

Another project, termed as actuated tensegrity, is dependent on the changes in structures that are controlled by actuators. This is managed by computerized interpreters of real-world conditions.

One of the vital sub-categories of responsive architecture is Climate Adaptable Building Hulls (CABS). It stresses the importance of dynamic characteristics of roofs and facades. CABS are able to frequently and reversibly alter a few of its features, functionalities, and behaviors as a reaction to altering performance needs and changing boundary conditions, with the purpose of enhancing the inclusive performance of buildings.

Important Contributors

The Bureau For Responsive Architecture and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Tristan d'Estree Sterk, and Robert Skelton of UCSD in San Diego are putting their efforts on the project of actuated tensegrity. They have done experiments with controlled wires and rods that are able to alter the shape of the structure, both inside and outside in reaction to sensors. Their main aim is to reduce the effect of natural changes on buildings.

The Kinetic Design Group of MIT is working on creating the idea of smart dynamic systems, which are described as "architectural spaces and objects that can physically re-configure themselves to meet changing needs." They take assistance from embedded computation, adaptable architecture, and structural engineering. The goal is to show that the integration of these advanced technologies can make the environmental quality of buildings more efficient.

Professor, Daniel Grünkranz of The University of Applied Arts in Vienna, is doing his Ph.D. in the field of Phenomenology, which deals with the Responsive Architectures and Technologies.

Full Scale Actuated Tensegrity Structure (Prototype) by ORAMBRA

The Office for Robotic Architectural Media (2003) and Tristan d'Estree Sterk created this structure from the components of stainless steel, cast aluminum and pneumatic muscles (these are supplied by Shadow Robotics UK).

Such forms of the structural system make use of controllable and adjustable rigidity to offer designers a system that has a manageable shape. Because these structures are a type of ultra-lightweight structure, they provide a prime technique for decreasing the intrinsic energy used in building procedures.

Responsive Architecture: The Latest Cutting Edge Technology

Integrating the advanced responsive architecture technology has made it possible for buildings to change color, shape or other characteristics in response to what is going on around it. The evolution of this amazing responsive architecture technology will definitely bring amazing development to the world of architecture.



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