Haptic, Audio, and Visual Interface

This novel interface is designed to improve human-computer or human-robot interactions. The sensate interface mimics the softness of human skin and tissue to ensure the safety of humans through compliance matching of the selected materials. The semitransparent soft membrane consists of numerous dielectric electroactive polymers. It can generate sound through a rapid expansion and contraction of the integrated actuators. A visual display is being achieved through the shape change of monochromatic electrodes that are arranged not unlike pixels. Furthermore, the polymorphic qualities of the membrane enable a haptic feedback comparable to a braille interface. By measuring the capacitance during mechanical deformation, induced through touch, it can also collect sensorial data.

Interactive, Haptic, Audio, and Visual Interface for Multi Sensorial Experiences. U.S. provisional patent application No. 62/330,384. Credit: Chris Bartel, Lisa Merz,Martina Decker, Andrzej Zarzycki

Bio-enabled Building Systems

Biomimicry has enjoyed a lot of attention in recent years and is now going beyond the adaptation of geometric and formal similarities. To counteract the negative effects of unsustainable building practices, designers are looking towards biological systems for inspiration. Some emergent investigations are beginning to integrate living organisms, such as microalgae, directly into the constructed environment. By merging the physical processes of the natural world into design components, the works strive to reduce energy consumption, aid in the production of renewable energy, remediate air pollution, or try to find new strategies for future food and feed supplies.

Credit: Libertad M. Harris, George Hahn, Andrew Biron, Martina Decker

Emergent Materials in Digital Fabrication

The development of digital manufacturing technologies in architecture has brought forth great interest regarding mass customization of architectural building blocks and products. This research project probes the potential of emergent materials in the context of digital fabrication for environmentally friendly building practices. Specific focus is given to emergent and smart materials, that can enable a novel approach to mold making in the context of robotic fabrication.

Credit: Lauren Rose, Kai Qian, Nami Uchida, Max Wang, Martina Decker


The Hydroseed project strives to combat environmental degradation and desertification of farmland and greenspaces. It is a self-deploying seed system, that can be used to distribute seeds across a large surface area with the help of a polymorphic smart material. Hydrogels, that can change their shape and rapidly expand in the presence of high moisture levels, can absorb and store roughly 400 times their own weight in water. The Hydroseed is designed to not only spread seeds or seedlings with the help of this fascinating material, it also uses the hydrogel to control the moisture levels in the surrounding soil after the seeding process is completed.

Preliminary patent application number is U.S. Serial No. 62/465,341. Credit: Nahin Shah, Martina Decker


Calla is a solar powered outdoor lighting design that incorporates a photoluminescent smart material. The light fixture charges not only a battery during the day, to power a LED at night, it also absorbs the sun’s energy to power the phosphorescent pigments that are incorporated into the design. With the two light sources at play a gradient in light intensity and color is achieved.

Preliminary patent application number: U.S. Serial No. 62/445,781. Credit: Alexandra Nita, Martina Decker

Soft Frit

Soft Frit is a polymorphic architectural frit. It can change its volume and shape to control solar heat gain. A pneumatic pump system inflates or deflates the frit depending on a variety of sensorial data, that can cater to the specific occupant needs. Furthermore, the actuator design incorporates a photo luminescent material, that can absorb energy from the sun during the daytime and emit a soft glow during dark conditions, providing minimal ambient lighting.

Soft Frit. Credit: Jorge Cruz, Libertad M. Harris, Anthony Morrello, Anthony Samaha, Martina Decker

Soft Barrier

Soft Barrier is a soft robotic application in architecture. It is a thermo-responsive membrane that can manipulate the thermal transmission through façade systems. This is achieved through the inflation of individual air pockets. It also incorporates thermochromic pigments that can change from a dark blue to a light color depending on the ambient temperature and hence change the albedo of the building’s skin.

Soft Barrier. Credit: Dan Beltran, Michelle Ghanime, Salma Mahmood, Martina Decker

Soft Acoustic Tile

The Soft Acoustic Tile is a soft robotic intervention that introduces a change in surface morphology to interior walls to manipulate sound propagation in indoor environments. The individual actuators transition their shape and volume from entirely flat to more complex surface morphologies with protruding air pockets. Through this shape change, the robotic environment can influence the absorption, diffusion and reflection of sound.

Credit: Ryan Berg, Paulo Guerreiro, Jesus Vasquez, Martina Decker

Green Wall

Green roofs or green walls have been applied in buildings for centuries already. They have been praised to improve thermal qualities of buildings and counteract the urban heat island effect, aid in storm water management, provide oxygen and an urban wildlife habitat. The water management of vertical plant installation is a complex undertaking and often requires extensive irrigation systems. Emergent materials such as hydrogels are being explored to control the moisture content in the soil and promote plant health.
Credit: Philip Molino, Martina Decker

Dichroic Light Sculpture

Dichroic materials are carefully designed to selectively pass certain wavelengths of light while reflecting others. The Light Sculpture displays a vivid array of magenta and green when white light is projected onto it, even though the material itself does not have an inherent color.

Credit: Robert Lockatell, Martina Decker