A space that responds to environmental and human stimuli and changes its shape accordingly – is this the future of architecture?

A research project by the Bachelor of Computational Design students at UNSW Built Environment in collaboration with top engineering firm ARUP has created a unique origami-style meeting room that can respond to the behaviour of people in it and even change shape.

The interactive Centaur Pod will adapt to external environmental and human stimuli by moving up and down and changing its shape, according to UNSW’s Discipline director of Computational Design, associate professor Hank Haeusler.

Currently, a human can be in the same space as a robot and interact in the space with the robot.

What the UNSW-ARUP project aims to do is to turn the space into a robot, which will then be able to sense the behaviour and actions of the human, learn from this behaviour, and create knowledge from the behaviour to initiate change in the space.

Describing the project as very unique where machine learning is combined with kinetic architecture, associate professor Haeusler said the biomimicry influenced kinetic pavilion is an exploration of interactive architecture and soft robotics.

“It’s quite interesting that students studying in an architecture and design faculty are exploring robotic structures, without being robot engineers,” he says.

The Computational Design students are designing, developing, documenting and fabricating the Centaur Pod prototype with ARUP over three semesters.

The real-world research project explores three main areas that will profoundly change the way architects design, develop and manufacture in the future: machine learning and artificial intelligence; digital fabrication and robot fabrication; and augmented reality and virtual reality.

Associate Professor Haeusler explains that they are pushing the boundaries of conventional architecture and design to explore what machine learning, biomimicry and creative robotics have to offer for spatial design, and use this knowledge to develop architectural design projects.

Measuring approximately 6-9sqm, the Centaur Pod will be constructed next year and showcased first in ARUP’s Sydney office.

It will then travel to the Melbourne and Brisbane ARUP offices, and potentially internationally to office locations such as New York, Hong Kong, London or Beijing.