Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, California


The envelope of the Jellyfish House, designed by San Francisco-based IwamotoScott ArchitectureArchitecture, acts not just as a physical enclosure, but as an active, smart technology engaged in the remediation of its own environment.  But unlike “smart” homes of the past, this technology is embedded in the structure without user interface. The house therefore presents a condition where architecture is simultaneously structural and ambient.

Commissioned by “OPEN HOUSE: Architecture and Technology for Intelligent Living,” an exhibition produced by the Art Center in Pasadena and the Vitra Design Museum, Jellyfish House explores technologies for living that can be feasibly realized within 25 to 50 years.

The project (like the animal) connects with its environment.  But unlike countless other design schemes that use this phrase, it is not employed here as architectural jargon signifying formal gestures that reputedly establish a so-called dialogue between a building and its context.  Rather, this house is composed of that which surrounds it (water, like the jellyfish animal), and it becomes symbiotically integrated with the ecological processes of its site.

Proposed to sit on Treasure Island, an artificial landmass close to the naturally occurring Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay, the house’s site is home to a now-decommissioned military base.  The architects propose a phyto-remediation technique that would not necessitate the removal of five feet of topsoil demanded by other approaches.

The skin, a parametric mesh, captures, filters and stores rain water for use in the home.  It first channels water into cavities, where ultraviolet light filament--powered by thin film photovoltaics on the surface--purifies the water.  Commonly used now in a larger scale, the architects speculate that in 25 to 50 years, UV light can be harnessed to kill micro-organisms at a small and affordable scale.  Titanium dioxide coats these cavities to filter the otherwise harmful UV rays, allowing only the blue, visible light to emerge.  During filtration, the house softly glows with changing shades of blue.  

Fluid-filled pockets containing phase change material line the inside of the skin, and act as a latent heating and cooling system. 

The Jellyfish House will be on display from April 14 to July 1 at the Pasadena Art Center College of Design.


curators – Vitra Design Museum, Art Center College of Design

Gross square footage:
2,500 sq. ft.

IwamotoScott Architecture
777 Florida Street
Suite 308
San Francisco,CA 94110
T: 415-864-2868
F: 415-643-7773

CAD system, project management, or other software used: Generative Components



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