A biomimetic perspective on (retro)fitting of building envelopes

Öztoprak, Zelal
The starting point of the research is the problem of (retro)fitting in architecture. Existing buildings are constrained by their fixed and static materiality and limited life span. Yet they often require interventions due to changes around them. In practice, these interventions are commonplace, yet very little attention is devoted to preparing buildings to these changes before they require interventions. Therefore, current understanding of (retro)fitting in architecture implies turning the building back to its original state, after it becomes retro. Unlike this, living beings do not become retro, rather they aim to fit the best condition of their current situation through adaptation strategies. To this end, the buildings share much in common with organisms in nature and can borrow a number of information from them with biomimetics. This research focuses on the design of the building envelope, as it is very influential with regard to retrofitting. Revisiting the analogy between the skin and building envelope, the thesis aims at redefining (retro)fitting with a new design approach named as “adaptive fitting”. The early design phase is particularly important, as decisions taken during this stage can determine the “fitting” of the design. With adaptive fitting, building envelopes can act like the skin in nature since they will be coded with the ability of fitting. Taking nature as a measure and learning from the fitting modes of nature, the infrastructure of change will be integrated to the genes of the design from the beginning. With this, the building will be ready for possible mutation scenarios and adaptively fit into changing conditions.