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MIT and Google team up to create transformable office pods

News International-French

11 Oct 2016

The MIT School of Architecture’s Self-Assembly Lab has teamed up with Google to create Transformable Meeting Spaces, a project that utilizes woven structure research in wood and fiberglass pods that descend from the ceiling, transforming a large space into a smaller one.

Self-Assembly Lab Project Team: Hannah Lienard, Luc Lampietti, Kate Weishaar, Brian Huang, Lina Kara'in, Dimitrios Mairopoulos, Athina Papadopoulou, Bjorn Sparrman, Schendy Kernizan, Jared Laucks, Skylar Tibbits.

The transformable woven research was done in collaboration with TAIT Towers + Atelier One.Transformable structures often require expensive and complex electromechanical systems to create movement. This research explores an alternative approach utilizing transformable woven structures that can smoothly transform with lightweight and soft and materials/mechanisms. A series of prototypes were built at 10cm, 1.5m, 3m, 6m and 20m demonstrating articulating woven structures for various applications.

Transformable Meeting Spaces are aimed at reimagining interior office or building environments. There are two predominant approaches to office design - open spaces versus fixed offices. Both design strategies have significant challenges. Open office plans have been shown to decrease productivity due to noise and privacy challenges yet they provide flexibility and collaborative opportunities. Fixed offices offer privacy and quite environments but restrict the type of working spaces available and occupy more square footage.

This research proposes an alternative whereby structures can easily transform between private phone booths, lounge spaces or other quiet meeting spaces into open flexible areas. By utilizing woven and transformable materials these meeting spaces can expand and contract to create a meeting room for 6-8 people or morph into the ceiling leaving a clear and open area below.

Designed as a small-scale intervention for reconfiguring open office plans—which “have been shown to decrease productivity due to noise and privacy challenges”—the pods require no electromechanical systems to function, but rather employ a flexible skeleton and counterweight to change shape. This skeleton is composed of 36 fiberglass rods, which are woven together into a sort of textile or cylindrical braid. Thus, the structure behaves “like a Chinese finger trap: The circumference of the pod shrinks when it’s pulled, and expends when relaxed.