Emergency shelter design is becoming increasingly important due to the various refugee situations occurring around the world. Although some designs have already been awarded for their crucial role in providing emergency housing, other forward-thinking designers such as Haresh Lalvani are actively working to create a biomimicry-based system where shelter structures would be able to shape themselves.
Recently featured on Redshift, Lalvani, the cofounder of the Pratt Institute Center for Experimental Structures, is employing a “wildly interdisciplinary range of tools” which he hopes will help create a type of generative geometry in the future that would be able to assemble and repair, grow, and evolve all on its own. The designer is using concepts found in biology, mathematics, computer science and art to create systems where matter would start encoding information, a similar process to that of stem cells and genes in the human body. Lalvani explains that these biological systems are “the only place where software and hardware are the same thing.”
Using biomimicry as inspiration, Lalvani is testing the potential of giving physical objects the power to shape themselves through a similar system of genomic instructions encoded into the raw material. His prototypes stem from a concrete and humanitarian approach that could potentially create, for example, rapidly deployable disaster housing.
Creating an “inherently ephemeral building type”, however, is no easy task, and one that requires a futuristic level of technology. Working with metal fabricator, Milgo/Bufkin, Lalvani has managed to convert 2D sheets of perforated metals into rigid 3D structures using a computer controlled laser cutter that perforates “variable openings” into the sheets. Using a force such as gravity for instance, the spaces can be pulled apart or stretched, therefore creating another, more flexible form that is completely distinct from the original material.
This type of installation could be a potential game changer for shelter design considering some of Lalvani’s installations take less than one minute to bend into shape. Additionally exciting is the fact that the raw material is just one thin sheet of metal, and can be easily transported and requires no tools for assembly, making it especially useful for emergency situations.
Images via Haresh Lalvani