Intermediate 7 Erik Hoffmann, Intermediate 7 (2015-16), Data Centre

Material Life II: Transformative Envelope

Marco Vanucci

Intermediate 7 works along the notion of applied research, engaging directly with the materiality of architecture and the practical application of science and technology in the design process. Innovations in material science, manufacturing technology and computation offer new ways of organising structures and simulating their performative output within dynamic environments. We continue our research on understanding the building envelope as the catalyst for organisational, material, economic and representational aspects of architecture.

Focusing on the transformative qualities of matter and, in particular, the integration into the building envelope of movement and motion control, the unit will develop both active and passive systems to address the growing need for a resilient built environment. Form can be shaped by the interaction of an envelope with its environment. While its geometry is described by Cartesian coordinates, the thermo-fluid environment for which it is designed contributes to its shape. A boat hull, for example, does not change in shape but its topology is designed to address a multiplicity of vectors that determine its movement in space. Similarly, the architectural envelope can be designed to respond to specific dynamic scenarios - whether the building remains static or its component parts are in motion. The envelope seeks the boundary of architecture, whether this is defined by its interior organisation or by the nature of the surrounding environment.

We will test the transformational capacity of building envelopes through a series of prototypical projects addressing the housing shortage in the San Francisco Bay area. In Silicon Valley 90,000 new units of affordable housing will have to be built over the next 20 years to meet growing demand. We will develop new functional and flexible urban typologies to address this challenge. We will test ideas in a workshop environment, through the development of physical prototypes. We will experiment with manufacturing processes, material and computation in order to create new functional, resilient and flexible urban typologies.


Marco Vanucci is founding director of OPENSYSTEMS Architecture. He studied architecture in Italy and the UK and worked for Zaha Hadid Architects and AKTII, where he was involved in many seminal projects at the intersection of computational design, engineering and fabrication. He has lectured internationally, led workshops and taught at KTH in Stockholm. His works have been published and exhibited throughout Europe and North America.

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