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Kinetic architectural designs are such that certain parts of the structure move, with no effect whatsoever on the overall structural integrity. This design concept is mainly adopted to adapt to environmental situations, offer better aesthetic qualities, or deliver on unique functions a static structure would be incapable of. The 20th century came with more adoption of kinetic architecture, thanks to advances in robotics, electronics, and mechanics.

Kinetic Architecture History

It all started from the Middle Ages or even earlier, with the drawbridge and similar basic kinetic architecture forms. Fast forward to early 20th century, architects began to explore the chances of infusing movement into the main aspects of a building’s superstructure. The first 1/3 of the 20th century saw kinetic architecture taking the front rows among the Futurist Movement.

Chernikhov’s 101 Architectural Fantasies (1933) was just one of the several papers and books that offered moving building drawings and plans. The kinetic structure was mostly theoretical, at least for the first couple of decades of the 20th century. However, Buckminster Fuller and other innovators were in the thick of the action by the 1940s, with their physical implementation experiments.

William Zuk, a renowned engineer/architect, published his book on the topic in 1970. Zuk’s ‘Kinetic Architecture’ was the inspiration architects needed to commence actual work on kinetic buildings. The concepts in the book, alongside newer versions like the Buckminster Fuller’s Tensegrity, as well as advancements in robotics, helped in pushing kinetic buildings to the fore of the global architectural space.

Kinetic Architecture Themes

There were three interconnected kinetic architecture themes in the early 21st century. The first centered on functional buildings – stadiums with retractable roofs, or bridges capable of elevating their midsections to create space for the passage of tall ships. Examples of these stadiums include the Wembley Stadium, Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium, and the Veltins-Arena.

The second theme is centered on fantastic structures capable of “transformer-like” shape-shifting or adoption of impressive visual appearances. A popular structure that fits this description is the wing-like kinetic brise soleil at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The building is aesthetically exceptional, not forgetting that it can move to shade people from the elements of weather.

The third theme is centered on surface movement, i.e., movement happening at the building’s surface. This is also called the “skin-like articulation,” as named by Buckminster Fuller. A kinetic structure that exhibits this theme is the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. The building has a metallic screen that unfolds with moving geometric motifs. In turn, this serves as a high-tech brise soleil that opens and closes automatically to regulate the level of light and heat exposure.


The Quadrant House’s Kinetic Architecture

Another notable example of kinetic architecture is Robert Konieczny’s Polish house, with a moving outdoor living space, which pivots and docks with rooms on both sides of the garden. The Quadrant House, designed by KWK Promes, spots a kinetic architecture masterpiece that monitors the sun’s movement. Likewise, the moving terrace is linked with living spaces at Robert’s Quadrant House.

The Quadrant House was a significant upgrade to the Katowice-based office’s last projects – a highly-secure residence with different shutters for total sealing, and an ark-like house with a drawbridge sliding walls. The name ‘Quadrant’ originated from the astronomers’ device used in determining stars’ positions. This was also the foundation on which the moving section of the building, especially its 90-degree pivot, was conceived.

kinetic building

In the words of Konieczny, “part of the building reacts to the sun and follows its movement. It gives residents shade and pleasant airflow when they are there, but also control of the sunlight in the building or extension of its space.”

The rotation of the moving part of the building is between the spa and the living area. The accessory terrace is permanently shaded; it moves as the sun moves. There is an open-air extension to these rooms once the terrace docks against any of the interior spaces. There are sliding glass doors lining the living room; they contribute to the smooth indoor to outdoor transition.

The interiors are shaded from the direct sunlight, thanks to the depth of the terrace. Sometimes, the sun gets low in the sky. When this happens, the closing of the external roller blinds will create a substantial barrier against the wind and sun. The moving terrace enters into the garden by following a track set. The continuous motion means the natural grass keeps growing under the floor.

The terrace is linked to the house by the large hinges and the track. The exposure of these parts shows the kind of engineering adopted to achieve a moving building. The structure rotates with the aid of a fully automated drive system. There are also special sensors that detect obstacles and halt the motion. Users can switch to an alternative manual control.

The functional program of the Quadrant House can be found in a basic two-story rectangular volume. The perpendicular block shielding the garden and the living spaces from the adjacent road was derived by rotating a section of the ground floor. Consequently, there is a void in the main block; this is where the perpendicular wing and the living space sit. The perpendicular wing is where you find the gym and spa. The façade facing the street is completely windowless, thus guaranteeing 100% privacy.

Although the client’s initial requirement was a flat-roofed house, the engineers resorted to a pitched roof to fit with the area’s vernacular and adhere to the local planning regulations. When you check out the pitched-form roof from the street, it looks like a gable. However, a view from the garden shows that it tapers down to a flat edge. This way, both requirements were met.

Static architecture is good, but it may struggle to provide solutions to certain problems. However, the same issues can be resolved by kinetic architecture, through its moving or shape-changing designs.