A Pine Cone-Inspired Wall Opens and Closes With Water

The building covering could close when it rains, and open back up when the sun comes out...

Shaunacy Ferro
10 . 07 . 15

Pine cones are very in tune with the rain forecast. When it’s warm and dry, they open up to let their seeds disperse. In cold, wet weather, when the seeds are less likely to spread and grow, pine cones close up on themselves. 

Water Reaction, the final project of Royal College of Art master’s student Chao Chen, applies this evolutionary adaptation to architecture, creating a material that can react to the weather. When the surface of Water Reaction tiles gets wet, they stretch out flat; when dry, they curl up. Placed together, the tiles create a mosaic that opens and closes like a shutter in response to rain. 

Water-Reacting Architectural Surface from Chao Chen on Vimeo.

The tiles could be used to make a reactive canopy for a bus shelter or on a patio that spreads flat when it rains, but allows sunshine in during dry weather. (Though who knows how it might respond to thick fog.) The material could also be used as decoration to create an ever-changing facade that responds to precipitation. Chen is still developing his system—it needs to be more durable and wind-proof before it can be used on building exteriors—but it’s one step closer to buildings that can respond to outside conditions on their own. 

[h/t: Arch Daily]