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IWD Heroes: Environmental Designer On The Future of Intelligent Living

IWD Heroes: Environmental Designer On The Future of Intelligent Living

Thanks to tech-enabled design, our future homes will 'know' residents like flatmates—ultimately anticipating and adapting the environment to their moods and feelings without any direction

In an interview with PSFK, originally conducted for an installment of a series on the Future of Home+Living, Kiki Goti, founder of architecture and design studio SomePeople, spoke to us about the next generation of responsive living environments. Here, she explains how highly intelligent tech-enabled dwellings will learn, remember and alter in accordance with inhabitants' subltest of shifts, functioning like an extension of people's bodies and minds.

PSFK: What does an ambient dwelling mean to you, and what could the future of this space hold?

Kiki Goti: For me, ambient buildings are not just finished buildings that track users and respond to their needs: They are ever-evolving structures capable of adapting to unexpected conditions. These structures are able to evolve by “learning” about their users through constant, longterm, subtle communication processes. The communication between users and structures is not a simple sensor-based feedback loop, but a much more complex process that is a natural result of their co-existence. Just like two flatmates know each other and understand their needs, that's how an intelligent structure and its habitat co-exist.

Future scenarios include buildings that understand complex social and psychological relationships and are able to develop intelligent behaviors—buildings that understand users' personality and aesthetics and are able to respond to their feelings and mood, through smart material and tectonic systems.

Connected to the theme of ambient or sentient homes is the concept of kinetic environments—spaces (and the objects within them) that physically respond in some way to the resident. How do you see these evolving?

The field of kinetic, adaptive architecture that responds to the environments and to human needs has been widely explored from the radical architects of the ’60s, like Archigram and Cedric Price, to the computational designers of the early 2000s, like Kolarevic and Oosterhuis.

The challenge today is to think beyond this one-way relationship between users and architectural machines—the user gives a command, and the architectural machine executes it by transforming itself. Advanced technological tools have developed a high level of intimacy with their users, which results in a vague collaborative system of decisions and actions. If your home “knows” you well, then very subtle shape-changing actions can become very meaningful in a specific context. For example, breathing architectural skins that can provide more or less privacy according to users' feelings or subtle color changes that adapt to users' moods, may communicate with users almost subconsciously.

The theme of privacy comes up a lot with these data-rich systems. How do you see the notion of privacy (or our reaction to the lack of it) playing out?

Information privacy is one of the most important issues that architecture will have to face in the future. Data is power and its mismanagement can threaten entire social and political structures, As architects, it is our responsibility to understand the way data is gathered, distributed and used in our buildings. But this doesn't mean we should avoid using new technologies that become available today. Technology is constantly moving forward and the idea that we can stop technological progress is just an illusion. What we can do about technological tools that may be frightening us is to learn about them and try to integrate them into architecture in a meaningful and impactful way.

Goti was among the female pioneers we spotlit in honor of International Women's Day 2020—for the full list, see here! For more about Goti's work, see SomePeople.