Posts Tagged ‘ design ’

Nano Scale: The Living Kitchen

The future of nanotechnology offers many applications in the world of housing. The blog entry I respond to in this post presents a kitchen that morphs out of a wall thanks to microscopic, “claytronic” atoms.

Continuing the theme of innovative domestic dwellings, I examine a project that approaches the world of household design on a nano level. The Living Kitchen, by designer Michael Harboun depicts a vision of the future that has implications in all facets of daily living. His animation and renderings of The Living Kitchen show a faucet and sink that are drawn and extruded from a wall based on the user’s hand movements. Mr. Harboun’s depictions are eerily lifelike, yet remarkably progressive. This technology features nanometer-scale computers that are programmed to aggregate in various formations based on a response to human touch, forming basic household appliances. Not to say that this is the first project or the most groundbreaking in the world of programmable matterand claytronic atoms. On the contrary, it takes the most mundane of activities (cooking) and reimagines it with one of the most potentially innovative technologies being explored, nanotechnology. Currently, explorations into the world of nanoscale robotics are in their infancy, reminiscent of primitive room-filling computers. But the advancements in the world of nanoscale technology are propelling the industry forward. Carnegie Mellon University is one of the leading institutions in nanotechnology research, much of which is still in crude, rudimentary stages.

“The Living Kitchen”


Mr. Harboun’s renderings are so provocative that the viewer loses any sense of reality, and in that moment the world of the possible becomes clear. Nanotechnologies represent a well-prophesied, but seldom articulated direction in the design world. The potential of this theoretical technology is quickly materializing as exhibited in Harboun’s depictions. I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the prospect of interacting with a material that molds to meet my needs. Such animations assume notions of embodied design intelligence, in which forms are conditioned rather than molded. Programmable matter has the potential to re-define the role of the designer as geneticist of microscopic traits.

I am very interested in the potential applications of nanotechnology as it relates to housing. On a functional level, it can make simple, household chores efficient in a spatial planning sense. No longer will a sink exist when it is not in use. Counter space can grow along the length of an entire wall. These are all pipe dreams compared to my current kitchen situation, but they illustrate a very utilitarian fantasy. Conversely, nanotechnology can theoretically be applied to larger-scale design issues in architecture. Building facades could thicken to insulate a house during the winter and become porous during warm months to naturally ventilate. The “claytronic” atoms could be programmed to react to sun paths, resulting in a building that reacts to its environment based on certain design criteria. One day society will look back on our crude, static appliances and wonder how we survived without programmable matter catering to our needs. Nanotechnology may threaten to create the society depicted in Wall-E, in which all rituals of daily life are served to humans reclined in lounge chairs. Or, could the use of nanotechnology redefine the user as designer? Perhaps as members of the mass public become designers, there will be a revolution in the industry in which creative output is a daily ritual. The telling sign that this entry is powerful is that in its descriptions, people are describing all kinds of applications that are not represented in Harboun’s sequence of renderings. Excitement to explore the possibilities of claytronics is palpable.