Archigram’s playful experiments in kinematic structures were an early precedent to the smart building systems we find commonplace today. Driving techno-utopian visions of moveable spaces in projects like Fun Palace and Generator, Cedric Price, Archigram, and their contemporaries imagined cybernetic building intelligences that would “provoke, delight, and otherwise stimulate” their occupants.
“Provoke; Delight; Stimulate”: the language Archigram used to describe their proto-smart-buildings in the 1960s is a far cry from the dry, efficiency-driven goals of today’s “smart” designs. Contemporary building systems are lifeless tools for optimizing space use and energy consumption, interfaced with through the dull 2D screens of dashboards in lobbies, iPhone apps, and Outlook plug-ins. What might today’s smart buildings learn from Archigram?
Working through the office building type, which has fervently adopted smart space optimization schemes, this thesis challenges the efficiency-driven smart building paradigm. Where smart offices typically focus on economizing space use, our project injects Archigrammatic attitudes toward computerized buildings to create more stimulating workspace experiences. We test new forms of human-building interaction on two tracks: On one hand, Archigram’s ideas of kinematic, programmatically fluid spaces are redeployed as a more responsive way of managing the “space-as-a-service” economy. On the other, their playful, moveable systems are tested as an alternative to screen-based interactions with the smart building, suggesting more humanistic forms of UX design for the built environment. This alternative attitude toward the smart building draws from fantastical visions of the 1960s to imagine more engaging interactions with our increasingly ubiquitous digital building systems.