Student Chao Chen Designs a Shapeshifting Laminate

By: Meghan Young - Jul 6, 2015
References: rca.ac.uk & fastcodesign
If buildings had anamorphic qualities, perhaps natural disasters wouldn't hit communities hard; that's where these water-reacting architectural surfaces come into play. Designed by Chao Chen, a student at the Royal College of Art, the material is inspired by pine cones. Fast Co Design writes, "Picking up a pine cone, he noticed that it reacted to water by closing its outer shell. Now, he has developed a building material, based on the pine cone's anatomy, that can shapeshift in response to weather."

By studying this reaction, Chen designed water-reacting architectural surfaces out of fabric, a thin film and veneer. He created a few examples of how this unique material could be used including a small shelter, color-revealing surfaces and a sophisticated water detector.