Kinetic Architecture (Part I): Introduction to Kinetic Architecture

You may have heard of retractable stadium roofs that extend to close up the stadium from the outside weather conditions, shielding its occupants from rain or sun, or have automatic gates at home so you don’t have to get out the car to manually open them while needing to face the weather conditions or even risk your safety. These are just some examples of kinetic architecture, and as you can tell, besides being attractive visually, kinetic structures can have the element of functionality, as well.

On one hand, kinetic architecture’s motivations lay in “creating spaces and objects that can physically reconfigure themselves to meet changing needs” (Fox and Yeh, 2000), while on the other, there is the challenge of the increasing of efficiency and the optimisation of materials for reducing energy consumptions in constructions (Barozzi, et al., 2016). For the application of kinetic architecture, the use of robotics, mechanics and electronics is indefinitely essential (Ramzy and Fayed, 2011). And according to Fox and Yeh (2000), that the isomorphic convergence of three key elements are the core of intelligent kinetic systems, being structural engineering, sensor technology and adaptable architecture. Due to the advancement in technology in these sectors, these advancements in architecture are made possible and new ways of engineering buildings, re-established use and capabilities of buildings are born.

“The building envelope is the primary subsystem through which external conditions and environmental changes can be regulated and therefore acquires great relevance in the development of new approaches to sustainable building solutions” (Barozzi, et al., 2016). A prime example of the application of kinetic energy to regulate the internal conditions of a building would be climate-responsive autonomous shading systems or kinetic systems that promote air circulation and reducing heat gain into a building, which are becoming more and more popular.

Below are examples of autonomous kinetic systems and videos of them in action:



Al Bahr Towers:

Penumbra kinetic shading system:

FLARE kinetic ambient reflection membrane:

“At the intersection of these areas exists an unexplored physical architecture tuned to address today’s dynamic, flexible and constantly changing needs. Intelligent kinetic systems are unique to the field of architecture where objects are conventionally static, use is often singular, and responsive spatial adaptability is relatively unexplored” (Fox and Yeh, 2000).

“Using these new technologies, architects are not any more tied up to traditional ideas of structural balance; the wall now is to move, the roof is to be folded and the whole building is to revolve” (Ramzy and Fayed, 2011).

Although most examples of kinetic architecture focus on the skin or facade of the structure, moving elements can be made within a building too. An example of this will be further discussed in the next blog entry with a case study on architectural technology for the disabled.


Barozzi, M., Lienhard, J., Zanelli, A. and Monticelli, C. (2016), ‘The Sustainability of Adaptive  Envelopes: Developments of Kinetic Architecture’, Procedia Engineering, 155, August, p. 275-284.  

Fox, M.A. and Yeh, B.P. (2000), ‘Intelligent Kinetic Systems in Architecture’, Managing Interactions in Smart Environments, p.91-103.

Ramzy, N. and Fayed, H. (2011), ‘Kinetic systems in architecture: New approach for environmental control systems and context-sensitive buildings’, Sustainable Cities and Society 1(3), October, p. 170-177.

Roberts, P. (2016), ‘Why Kinetic Architecture is More Than a Spectacle’, Design Exchange, 4 April, [online], available at: [accessed 26 June 2017]

Rogers, S.A. (n.d), ‘Architecturally Alive: 16 Transforming and Kinetic Buildings’, Web Urbanist, [online], available at:

Image sources:

Featured image:

Al Bahr Towers:

FLARE kinetic ambient reflection membrane:

Penumbra kinetic shading system:


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