By Yulia Ivanova on January 12, 2016
is a designer, doctoral candidate and instructor at the Institute for Computational Design (ICD)
at the University of Stuttgart. At the ICD, David is leading the research field of bio-inspired 3D printed Hygroscopic Programmable Material Systems. His research investigates the physiological relation of information intensive technologies with architectural practice and material production, with critical focus on the computational development and digital fabrication of climate responsive material systems. As a designer in both architecture and commercial digital media, David's professional work engages multiple disciplines, design scales, and environments - ranging from dense urban settings to remote regions with extreme climates.
At the Connected City Summit
, David will be discussing "Bio-inspired 3D Printed Programmable Material Systems
" for our future cities. Programmable 3D-printed material systems are sustainable architectural elements made from bio-plastics that can physically move and transform in response to climatic changes without the use of electronic or mechanical components. Based on bio-inspired design strategies, these novel architectural systems use 3D printing processes to build material systems that are highly in-tune with changing weather conditions. Without the need of failure-prone sensors or controllers, these systems operate differently from conventional engineering systems. Much like a pine cone or other hygroscopically actuated mechanisms found in biology, the 3D printed components operate as climate responsive surfaces whereby a simple material element performs as sensor, actuator, and regulator.
We caught up with David ahead of his presentation at the summit on 16-17 March
to hear more.What was your motivation behind getting involved in programmable material systems research?
My motivation stems from my fascination with naturally-occurring biological systems, their inherent material intelligence, and complex yet uncomplicated means of managing the surrounding environment. For us to have any chance at mimicking these natural systems in the built environment, and to foster a more adaptable and symbiotic relationship with the natural world, the understanding of systems at their material level becomes highly critical.
How have recent technological / scientific developments aided to the progress of the project?
The continually expanding and advancing field of DIY-making and 3D printing technology has had a great impact on my work; these relatively simple and relatively affordable machines have presented many researchers, designers and material scientists with an intriguing platform for research overlap. We all come to it with different perspectives so we have a lot to learn from each other – allowing us to collaborate across disciplines - resulting in a greater capacity to explore programmable material systems within less conventional applications, such as architecture and design.
What elements of the connected city do you feel are ripe for disruption?
The fragmented modern city is no longer feasible - the way we live/work in the city itself and the way in which our buildings manage their environment must be disrupted. The built environment must become its own ecosystem, where work, life, industry and agriculture have an intrinsic relation to each other. We must reconstitute our built assemblies to perform more like natural systems; for example, the ability for a facade to naturally ventilate and shed moisture based on its ability to respond to changes in relative humidity.
What new developments in our cities can we expect to see in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, I am not too sure what will be achieved, but it does seem that there is a growing interest in breaking away from the status quo. It depends greatly on the foresight and flexibility of a City, its willingness to take on some level of risk, and the public's tolerance for 'testing' new ideas. Finding the right solutions may mean trying things that fail, which in my mind is still much better than continuing to do things that we already know do not work.
What do you feel are the most urgent challenges connected cities need to address?
The way in which a city views its relationship to production and urban life must be addressed. While I think the IT fabric has made it possible to create new forms of connections across communities, regions and industries that are vital to the ‘connected city’, the physical structure of the built form and the infrastructure that supports it remains highly untouched. For example, the energy used to physically connect our sprawling work force/communities and to build and environmentally control our predominantly single-use buildings offer both great challenge and opportunity.
How can these be solved with emerging technology?
For me, the technology to solve a lot of the problems that face today's cities is already here; what we need is the will and the economic understanding of its implications. With this, I think the political motivation will also follow. The democratization of science, design and fabrication technology will have a great impact on how we collectively tackle problems and generate solutions.
What is the role of citizens in creating future cities?
The role of the citizen is first and foremost to care; apathy can be a real impediment to change. There is also an impression that good design or that innovative solutions have to be expensive. I think our role is to challenge ourselves to be proactive in finding our own collective communities. Whether it is a design community, a research community or a social community, it is through these collaborative interconnections that the city of the future can be shaped.
Do you feel the smart city stakeholders are addressing citizen engagement effectively? What can be improved?
I think we can do a better job of installing wonder in our cities; to integrate moments in our urban landscapes that not only allow citizens to engage with their environment, but to be in awe of it - to be inspired by it. To get people thinking, "how does this thing work?”, or "why do I feel so good in this space?" Being interested in asking these questions is what will ultimately lead us to making good choices.
David Correa will be speaking at the RE•WORK Connected City Summit on 16-17 March 2016 in London, alongside speakers from BigBelly, Pavegen, Siemens, UCL, MK:Smart and more.Early Bird tickets are available until 5 February, for more information and to register please visit the event page here.