The other week, Axel Kilian, an Assistant Professor in the Architecture department at Princeton, showed us his car, his chair, and his tower that changes with the winds.
In 2006, Block, Kilian, Schmitt and Snavely from MIT erected the WhoWhatWhenAir actuated tower outside the student center at MIT. The fiberglass structure is long disassembled, but during its days of glory the tower impressed and frightened onlookers by—for a building—performing some extreme acrobatics.
By attaching inflatable tubes (called “pneumatic actuators) to the structure’s frame, a bystander could lean the tower up to eight feet in any direction via remote control.
The tower has the proportions of a skyscraper but may be too turbulent for comfortable living. More likely, the tower could inspire solutions for uninhabited buildings in storm and tornado-ridden areas. But most importantly, the tower is a prototype for ways architecture can come a little closer to the still superior designs of the natural world.
We'd of course love it if our office building acted more like the actuated tower and would happily carpenter airplane style fold-up desks and stitch office chair seat belts.