We’ve seen window glass that responds intelligently to heat, darkening in direct sunlight. And we’ve seen computer-controlled sunshades based on traditional Arabic architecture that slide open or shut as needed. But this is the first actual building material we’ve seen that responds dynamically heat and sunlight.

eVolo reports that the “Bloom” installation by University of Southern California architect professor Doris Kim Sung is composed of 14,000 pieces of thermobimetal, a smart material that changes its shape when hit by the heat of the sun. “Bloom” was constructed with two thin sheets of these metals, each with different expansion rates, which were then laminated together. Because one sheet expands faster than the other, when the temperature rises, the metal sheets curl up. When the mercury dips again, these sheets flatten out.

"Bloom" by Doris Kim Sung
image via eVolo

Arranged in a shape reminiscent of a woman’s corset from the Victorian era, “Bloom” is no doubt a fascinating bit of sculpture to observe over the course of a hot day, but it has some deep green implications for the built environment as well. Responsive metals that open up natural ventilation shafts when temperatures within a building rise could help to negate the need for forced-air cooling systems. They could also help solar chimneys work more efficiently, aiding in the efficiency of buildings that already rely upon (less high-tech) forms of natural ventilation.

As is, “Bloom” acts as a kind of sun-tracking instrument indexing time and temperature, bringing together material experimentation, structural innovation, and computational form and pattern-making into an environmentally responsive form. Which is to say, it’s some pretty smart art.

More Popular Posts