Reframing Kinetics Classifying Architectural Changing States

Author: Luigiemanuele Amabile


From the most basic human movements to portable and deployable structures, from institutionalized artistic avantgarde to radical Walking Cities, kinetics has always been integrated into built expressions as a purely bodily mode through which humans interact with architecture. Given the vastness of these implications, many scholars have taken on the task of describing the possible characteristics through which to interpret kinetics while bringing it to a more domesticated notion for architecture and art, and their practice1. To classify means to take a stand against certain criteria of selection: all taxonomic approaches have a strategic and political dimension, enhancing some points of view while censoring others. Most taxonomies use a set of basic criteria to highlight specific issues: type and direction of movement, involved systems and their location, characteristics of the moving elements, functional requirements2. Very few of them deal with the formal definition of the change of state2 – the condition of mutability of an architectural system, a space or an atmosphere, from one initial state to another, through the transformation of its material constitution – that movement generates in space, and on the subsequent experience of the user3. Within my research, I intended to investigate the kinetics of movement, describing and classifying the inherent design strategies in a series of examples to understand the pressures that have informed their spatial generation, and to propose a possible methodology for reading and interpreting this phenomenon. To this purpose, I concentrated on the definition of a new taxonomy that would focus on the formal generation of movement, mainly based on three orders of actions operating on kinetic form: physical, environmental and compositional actions (and twelve subcategories) applied to sixty different built examples from 1938 to 2020, to build an interpretative reference chart. Reframing architectural kinetics under these three categories aims at processing the design of movement as a possible expressive figure of our time, free from the uncritical technocratic enthusiasm that characterized the first two digital turns4 thus making immediately available to the practice of design an interpretative strategy that would help situate kinetics in architecture within the contemporary discourse questioning the possibility of an architecture that would adapt to human behaviour.