UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Topologies and design methods for folding kinetic structures : expanding the architectural paradigm Wierzbicki, Madalina Nicoleta


Built environments are the most prominent and important part of our material culture. Although they are vital for accommodating the exponentially growing and increasingly urbanized population under the challenging conditions of severe climatic changes and destabilized global societies, researchers note that the methods of both their design and construction need to be significantly improved. The construction industry is the largest source of waste and remains inefficient, while the architectural profession is being challenged by digital technologies, conflicting paradigms, and adverse market realities. What then are the obstacles in improving buildings? Is it the lack of viable ideas? Or, is it the social reluctance to accept novel ideas? How can architects be the socially relevant force contributing viable concepts? This thesis builds upon the current theories asserting the importance of human behavior and intentionality for understanding built environments, thus considering the complexity of both the technical and cultural circumstances. It establishes that although architecture is usually considered as a solid and invariable static form, it never has been a static shell merely delimiting discrete spaces. Through all times, buildings comprised both fixed structures and adjustable devices, which were the interactive interfaces between the static structures and the transiency of human action. This study focuses on rigidly foldable kinetic structures as they exemplify the potential advantages and challenges of novel architecture; and they are a logical expansion of the traditional adjustable architectural elements. For decades, theorists expected kinetic architecture to address the shortcomings of the traditional buildings. However, solving folding kinetic geometries is difficult and is hindered by the unintuitive nature of the current digital tools. Furthermore, kinetic environments challenge the traditional expectations of occupants. In response, the present thesis investigates the evolving, influenced by digital technologies, paradigms of public spaces, and human reasoningdriven design tools, while incorporating such human-centric considerations as social dynamics, history, and culture into the engineering and architectural design methods for built environments. It is concluded that architecture, its design and construction are primarily a social endeavor. Therefore understanding the cognitive barriers of design tools and negotiating the social expectations are essential when advancing new technologies for architecture.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International