Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Architecture and Community Design

Major Professor

Mark Weston, M. Arch.

Committee Member

Stanley Russell, M. Arch.

Committee Member

Stephen Szutenbach, M


Interactive, Facade, Product, Open-source, Mechatronics


It was first stated 200 years ago, and reiterated numerous times since, that "architecture is frozen music". While this romantic analogy sufficiently satisfies many in the realm of architecture, it actually is a sad way of defining an idea so inherently lively. Goethe's quote conjures up the notion of a world that is silent, one in which we can see the notes but never hear the music because we are trapped by stasis in time. Like the note admired on a piece of paper, architecture in this world is static regardless of the changing conditions around it.

What if the "frozen" part could be removed from this concept, and the element of time could play an active role in the built environment? An architecture that can exist in a sense of time is one in which the musical note can be played. Through the ability to change with time and be changed by time architecture can directly respond to its inhabitants, environment, and contextual factors. A rich melody of interaction can then be initiated in which the built world can talk back.

Naturally, the first point of this contact would be the building's facade, and it is here that there is the greatest opportunity to reach the largest audience. The outer "face" of a building has always been a feature of significance for both designer and customer. For centuries the ornamental features of a building were what distinguished its purpose and place in society. From the elaborite pediments of the Greeks to the inticatly carved reliefs of the Itailians, the ornament of a structure told a static story about the creators and inhabitants of the structure. Now, the technology is available to make this aspect of architecture talk to us by becoming a dymanic, interactive, and kinetic component.

In order for this facade system to transcend the boundries of conventional architecture it must utilize precocious architectural means, methods, and materials. These new communication systems include, but are not limited to, touch, light, sound, and electromagnictic fields. As any of these stimuli are precieved by the facade, it can have the ability to react proportional to the input. Esentially, the facade system will be able to customize itself depending on the conditions presented. Similar to a computer operating system, the new facade will provide a generic mass producible platform that can be individualized by it user. The users of this system may be the architect, client, occupant, viewer, environment, regional context, technologic connection, or global community, depending on the specific installation. And most importantly, both the user and the facade have the capacity to be changed or altered at any time, meaning that the fundamental characteristics of the project will never be frozen. In this manner, the new architectural ornament will go beyond the static nature of its predecessors and become one that the viewer can actively communicate with.