Chuck Hoberman is the founder of Hoberman Associates, a multidisciplinary practice that specializes in creating products and structures that have the capacity to change in shape, size and function. His vast and varied project portfolio includes everything from toys and medical equipment, to deployable shelters and retractable domes. On Oct. 10, Hoberman will speak about “Transformative Structures” at the 2007 Innovation Conference in NYC.

Jenna M. McKnight: What will you speak about at the conference?

Chuck Hoberman: I will focus primarily on my collaborative work with several architectural firms. This includes projects in Spain and the Middle East by Foster + Partners, a façade we are developing for a commercial building in Ginza by Nikken Sekkei/Yasuda Atelier, and an installation we are creating for an upcoming exhibition at MoMA. In addition, I’ll speak about the methods and theory of transformable design, as well as the underlying theory of how responsive buildings are a useful and sustainable strategy.


Hoberman’s “Helicoid,” which currently is installed at the Discovery World museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Click here to watch an eight-minute video of Chuck Hoberman's conversation with Jenna M. McKnight.

JM: Can you provide a few examples of transformable design?

CH: Variable shading and ventilation, operable coverings, retractable walls and facades, space transformation in the sense that spaces can be automatically altered for different uses: all of these would be types of transformable design. During the conference, I plan to discuss our responsive building skins and will demonstrate several of our parametric software applications that allow us to customize our technology for different building types.

JM: How does transformability apply to sustainability?

CH: The convergence of computational systems and the need for sustainable solutions in my view is pointing a new direction for architecture of adaptive buildings. Systems that respond to the environment, such as shading and ventilation systems, or spaces that transform, like rapid deployment structures – these are all sustainable strategies. In regards to responsive systems, the changing nature of the environment implies that buildings that respond in real time confer direct benefits in regards to reduced energy consumptions and improved interior environments. While this concept is not new – one needs only to look at blinds, shades and louvers to see that this is an accepted strategy – it is still rudimentary from a design standpoint.

JM: And what about transformable spaces?

CH: Take a building that is used for a limited period of time. If the spaces in the building are adapted for more uses because they can be reconfigured, energy and resources get used in a more effective way. It speaks to the aspect of sustainable design that is not about ongoing energy use, but about embodied energy during construction. A building that physically can reconfigure itself using our systems can have a higher level of environmental performance.

JM: How would you describe the overall focus of your practice?

CH: Change is the focus of our practice. What we do is shape the process of change.

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