Mapping the Intangible: On Adaptivity and Relational Prototyping in Architectural Design

Cameline Bolbroe

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterBook chapterResearchpeer-review


In recent years, new computing technologies in architecture have led to the possibility of designing architecture with non-static qualities, which affords the architectural designer with a whole new opportunity space to explore. At the same time, this opportunity space challenges both the principles governing the design of architecture as well as the agency of and the methods at hand for architectural professionals since architecture is traditionally contained in a paradigm of permanence. This essay focuses on a sub-domain of non-static architecture, namely adaptive architecture. Through an investigation into contemporary architectural discourse supported by examples from practice, I frame a shift in attention from the architectural object alone to the act of inhabitation. Further, I argue that the act of inhabitation is a process of negotiation and exchange between the architectural object, the inhabitant and the environment. Consequently, I discuss four aspects of adaptivity in architecture, namely temporality, memory, learning and emergence as an organizing hierarchy, which form the basis for further unpacking adaptivity. Finally, in order to facilitate this further unpacking, and as a response to meet the challenges of designing with adaptivity in architecture, I propose a particular method specifically tailored for adaptive architectural design. The method, relational prototyping, is founded on the idea of inhabitation as an act. Relational prototyping adapts techniques from performance to construct a full-scale prototyping genre, which equips and capacitates the architectural professional with a means to explore and operationalize adaptive qualities of architecture such as temporality, memory, learning and emergence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchitecture and Interaction : Human Computer Interaction in Space and Place
EditorsNicholas S. Dalton, Holger Schnädelbach, Mikael Wiberg, Tasos Varoudis
Publication date2016
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-30028-3
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-30028-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
SeriesHuman-Computer Interaction Series


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