Collaborative Structures

Sept. 1, 2008

From the editor

People often think of technology as the latest and greatest gadget or innovation. It's easy to be excited when one product, with all its bells and whistles, makes your job easier or building better. Sometimes one device can revolutionize your world.

More often, however, transformation comes from technologies working together. Today's structures are rapidly increasing in sophistication, and that's not because of one great product but because of hundreds of great products working in the same place at the same time for one common result.

In this issue, two divergent story lines come together in the common theme of collaboration. One is sustainability. Half Price, First Class details a project that uses multiple techniques, many of them small, that add up to make dramatic decreases in energy consumption and cost. Shades of Solar describes buildings that become energy producers.

In the other story line, the Special Section: Experience Design, three designers write about experience, or experiential, design, a methodology that uses multiple disciplines and technologies to create wow-factor architecture that not only engages occupants but can also interact with them. Media works with other media, blending it with architecture to make the extraordinary achievable.

An example of the concept is the Target Breezeway at Rockefeller Center in New York. (See Experiential Light and Sound, April 2007). Each visitor who enters is assigned a unique identity and followed by an individual signature of colors and patterns that reacts to the person's movements.

All of these facilities and methodologies rely on collaboration—among people of different professions, of technologies, of ideas. For example, film companies and show designers are becoming critical members of design teams. Photovoltaics are being used not only for energy generation but also for aesthetic benefits. Facades react to the weather.

While interaction has always been vital for successful design, the architecture of the future will require a degree of collaboration so involved that the point where design ends and technology begins will become indistinguishable. Buildings will not only host media, they'll also be media.

And even the greatest of gadgets will be nothing compared to such truly transformational structures.

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