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FLEXIBLE ARCHITECTURE: The Cultural Impact of Responsive Building

By : Robert Kronenburg

This paper explores the genre of flexible architecture - buildings that are intended to respond to changing situations in their use, operation, or location. This is architecture that adapts rather than stagnates; responds to change rather than rejects it; is motive rather than static. It is a design form that is by its essence cross-disciplinary and multi-functional and consequently, is frequently innovative and expressive of contemporary design issues. By revealing its basis and the factors that are determining its development, the value and relevancy of flexible architecture to contemporary problems associated with technological, social and economic change can be revealed. The characteristics of flexible architecture are explored by examining the design decisions that lead to culturally responsive buildings. It examines the underlying factors that generate a sense of place and why traditional and historic building patterns have been successful in creating genuinely adaptable architecture. It relates the characteristics of flexible architecture to Open Building principles and examines the effect that such design can have within the different levels in the built environment. The paper focuses special attention on contemporary architecture by examining the recent work of the Japanese architect Toyo Ito, in particular his recently completed Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Based on conversation with the designer and first-hand study of the building, the specific factors that make this new design a valuable resource in the search for flexible architecture strategies are explored. This paper expands on the author's previous research into the foundation areas of this topic, in particular the genre of portable architecture, the impact of technology on the development of architectural form, and the development of experimental and innovative house design in the twentieth century. Its subject is expanded in his forthcoming book Flexible: Architecture That Responds to Change to be published by Laurence King, London, in 2006.
Keywords : Flexible, Responsive, Cultural, Adaptable, Architecture.

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