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Self-Forming Hygrosensitive Tectonics
Fall 2018
Selected Project
Yin-Yu Fong, Kirk Gordon, Nicholas Grimes, Mengzhe Ye

Self-Forming Hygrosensitive Tectonics: Developing Doubly Curved Adaptive Morphologies from Uniplanar Bilaminate Construction


This research develops a system of hygroscopically actuated bilaminated panels to generate self-forming doubly curved structures from flattened, uniplanar constructions. This investigation seeks to expand the existing research on the architectural relevance of hygroscopic behavior in wood materials by responding to the challenges of meso-scale structural applications. While exposure to moisture is typically restricted in traditional wood construction, emerging research has attempted to celebrate wood’s unique hygroscopic properties, leveraging anisotropic variation in hygroscopic expansion to create bilaminated components which bend in response to changes in humidity. This bending behavior, produced by unequal forces within the passive and active layers, allows for the design of materially programmed, environmentally responsive architectural elements.

Project Development

After developing a humidity-controlled fabrication chamber, a series of experiments were run that explored the effect of materiality, dimensionality, and orientation on hygroscopic behavior.  These tests resulted in the decision to design a maple-spruce bilamination system that manipulated the thickness of the spruce passive layer as the key variable in affecting principal curvature.  The passive layer thickness required to produce a variety of digitally modeled geometries was derived from the creation of a computational model based on the Timoshenko bending formula.  A catalogue of joinery and surface division procedures was established in an attempt to achieve monoclastic, synclastic, and anticlastic physical geometries.  Responding to the limitations of these experiments (including the dimensional constraints of available lumber materials), a system of narrow paneled elements whose passive layers fell within a limited set of thicknesses was developed. By flipping the orientation of the active layer within a single, flat surface construction, bidirectional curvature was achieved.  This produced a self-forming standing structure whose final morphology exists along an adaptive continuum and that responds directly to changes in humidity conditions within its exhibition space.

Author and Image Credit

Yin-Yu Fong, Kirk Gordon, Nicholas Grimes, Mengzhe Ye


Ehsan Baharlou and Achim Menges