Author Archives: 05 Kuang Li

Shape Memory Alloy and its Future Architectural Adaptations

Shape Memory Alloy or SMA is a group of alloy of that can be trained to remember certain shape at a certain temperature.  What this means is that no matter how you bend and manipulated the material, once heated or cooled to a set temperature, the alloy will return to it remember shape at that temperature. There are mainly two types of SMAs, one is copper-aluminum-nickel alloy, the other is nickel-titanium alloy. Though, the term SMA may be unfamiliar to many people, but the material was first discovered in the 1930s.  Later, in 1960s the United States Naval Ordnance was experimenting with some new alloys, a simple of the alloy was presented at the laboratory management meeting. One of the associate technical directors, Dr. David S. Muzzey wanted to see what would happen if the sample was subjected to heat, so he held his pipe lighter underneath, and to everyone’s surprise, the alloy stretched back to its original shape. Then the Naval Ordnance decided to commercialize the material under the name Nitinol.

Nitinol is more common of the two type, and is used already in many high end fields mainly because the price to train the material to remember the shape is very high. But beside this, I would like to look at the material, in some future architecture uses, once the alloy is understanded better and the production price drops.

A more reachable idea to use this material would be use it to create tent that can pop up by at set temperature, such at extreme cold environment such as the arctic circles or extreme hot environments. This way, people can just take the tent out, and within seconds the tent would be set up by itself.

One of the movement in architecture is called Homeostatic Architecture. The term Homeostatic is a borrowed term from biology, in short means to maintain a stable and relatively constant condition within structure. It could either an open or closed system. Taking this idea to architecture, it would be a building that can self control in a systematic meanor, to maintain the interior space in a stable condition suited for occupancies. SMAs are a great materials to do this, the material could trained to change for within a 5 degrees of difference. So a shading device, could be train to open and close in parts with difference of the temperature.

Another use could be, what if the whole building is framed in this material. Then when there is a temperature change, the windows gets smaller on the sun side, and opens up on the shaded side. In another scenario, if the building opens slit on the bottom and on the roof, create a passive ventilation passages, and lead these cooling air to warm areas in the building. Also this would be helpful in an emergency, the corridors could expand make larger spaces for people to evacuate the building faster. On in the case of fire. What if wherever the fire is the space gets smaller, with less air, the fire could be controlled better.

There are many unknowns of this material awaits us to discover. However I can see a lot of future uses for SMAs in the building industry that could be beneficial in many ways. I hope this comes sooner than later.

Project 1 Part 2

The first set of renderings show how the installation interact with the space, the color is not the final choice, but to highlight the panels better.

The seconds set of plans are made to fit different budget, so with larger amount of budget we can build a system cover up the whole ceiling,  and we can build smaller set to fit in one bay with less budget.


One Main Street is an office refurbishment designed by dECOi Architects. The concept of this project is creating two continuous plans, a floor and a ceiling, with all the functions into these to surfaces, such as tables, walls, and partitions. The design team used CAD-CAM technologies developed the shapes and used CNC machines cut up all the plywood to create this space.

I think this is interesting project, which use the materials to its full extent. It uses all character of the material to express the linear quality. They used these curvilinear shapes or frames and composing them into forms or masses. Also, I like the amount of small details this project has, for example, they have to work out ventilation system for the box to put computers in and how this works together with the whole floor system, how the glass partitions a hold in place, and the lighthouse for the high intensity LED lights.

Link to the project: