Adaptive Component System

From Prefabrication to Operative Sustainability

Adaptive Component Systems is a research investigation based on a multidisciplinary approach to architecture, design, and technology. Led by professor Dana Čupková in consultation with Cornell engineering faculty, this work is motivated by the belief that advances in technology and building systems can positively underpin a creative generative process of architectural design and consequently affect the quality of the built environment on multiple scales.

Attempts to use prefabrication in architecture to realize a Fordist model of production, resulting in the seamless manufacture of human environments have failed. The industrial revolution succeeded in lowering the value of skilled human labor, thus limiting areas of specialization. Consequently the architectural profession moved away from a focus on the craft of building towards the objectification of architecture as an easily distributable commodity. The efficiency of the industrial paradigm created an economical model of endless repetition enabled by semi-automated construction methods, resulting in a lack of qualitative specificity and variation in building design. The failure of prefabrication lies primarily in its focus towards the universal solution of a singular final product and its resistance to an adaptive response to climactic variables inherent in the specificity of site. The focus of Adaptive Component Systems is in rethinking the notion of prefabrication through the use of contemporary digital fabrication technology and the incorporation of small scale energy harvesting systems locally embedded in the actual building structure. The proposition is in a shift from a final product to a series of dynamically linked operations controllable via series of constraint variables specific to a particular ecology. There is no single objectified design solution, but rather a process producing a series of self-similar variations. An understanding of digitally-driven adaptive topology, linked to component and climate specific performative logics is critical in resolving contemporary conflicts between architecture and energy usage, and results not only in greater energy efficiency and improved overall building performance, but is systemically linked to architecture’s ability to operatively affect a cultural and socio-political infrastructure. Rather than relying on future large-scale alternative energy sources, the goal is to produce a design of functional discrete ecologies, embedded in smaller scale aggregations within already densely built environments. Merging the capabilities of parametric design tools with digitally controlled fabrication, students work on collective design proposals led by Dana Čupková in collaboration with bioengineering and mechanical engineering faculty and a local rapid prototype fabricator, Incodema, to design, streamline and optimize material mock-ups and prototypes into actual realization. We use parameterization as a tool to adapt repetitive processes to differentiated conditions and material and manufacturing constraints, thus exploring possibilities for the application of new qualitative and performative parameters and craft.
Related Works: Faculty Innovation in Teaching, The Language of Architecture, AAP Cornell

This project was funded, in part, by the Faculty Innovation in Teaching Program, Office of the Provost, Cornell University.

Eat Me Wall


The Eat Me Wall is a panelized facade system which serves as a graywater filtration medium. Exterior spaces function as a distributed network of controlled micro-climatic pockets for the purposes of climate control, plant growth, leisure use and maintenance of the overall system. This design also creates benefits for interior spaces, such as better control of direct gains and sol-air temperatures throughout the year. The water filtration logic of the EatMe Wall is based on Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) for hydroponic plant growth and is calculated based on William Jewell’s method* for water purification.

*Jewell, W.J. (1992) “Methanotropic Bacteria for Nutrient Removal from Wastewater: Attached Film System”. Water Environment Research Vol. 64 No. 6
Project Credits: Dana Čupková, Monica Alexandra Freundt, Andrew Heumann, William Jewell, Daniel Quesada Lombo, Damon Wake

Solar Scoop


Designed based on louver system logic, the Solar Scoop is a panelized facade system which performs as an indirect lighting filtration device. This system strives to create a more even and deeper distribution of the lighting into interior spaces. It calibrates the facade surface, modulates the light and thus enables qualitative spatial effects for occupiable environments, while having ability to control heating loads. This product would be designed as both a retrofit system for existing glass curtain wall facade construction as well as a product for use in newly constructed buildings. The design focuses on the relationship between lighting levels and programmatic usage, thus creating a building skin that directly responds to the specific illumination requirement of different programs, especially programs with necessity for indirect lighting (such as offices, exhibition spaces, etc.).

Project Credits: Dana Čupková, Haley Cohen, Savina Kalkandzhieva, Joshua Nason, Kevin Pratt, Koren Sin

Vibro Wind


The Blow Wall project aims at designing a self-supporting structure that would serve as an urban windscreen, or windbreak for public plazas. These windbreaks are more efficient as partially and gradually porous surfaces. The Blow Wall intends to take advantage of this porosity for both performative, aesthetic and potentially programmatic purposes. It is designed to decrease the wind tunnel effect and create a semi-enclosed micro climate that harvests energy through the use of vibrating objects embedded within the series structural components. This method of energy production is based on the current vibro wind research at Cornell. Conducted by Francis Moon, the proposed technology produces electrical energy through the conversion of kinetic energy created by wind blowing over blunt body elements.

Student Credits: Jessica Bello, Jeremy Burke, Michael Lee, Andy Linn

The Corkscrew project focuses on the creation of macro scale funnels through the aggregation of micro component funnels.

Student Credits: Jerry Lai, Dianna Lin, Jean You, Jing Zhuang

The component strategy of Voronication takes advantage of an existing algorithmic organization, the Voronoi, which has inherent structural integrity as well as the opportunity for creating great variation in cell size. By thickening the structure and producing a varying taper within each cell, the goal was to control variable wind funneling effect through the resulting membrane while using extremely light gage sheet metal.

Student Credits: Sebastian Hernandez, Ian Janicki, Jamie Pelletier, Tina St. John

The Funnel Packing aggregation functions as a series of wind funnels producing the Venturi effect and thereby accelerating wind speeds for maximized energy production. The basic funnel component is parametrized to receive variable number and size of surface slits, which increase overall area for wind penetration and carry the micro wind band system technology for energy harvesting. The effect of increased wind velocity is controlled by the size and direction of the funnel surface openings. This system is meant to create electricity to support and supplement local energy usage.

Student Credits: Richard Jolta, Elizabeth Munson, NamSuk Oh, Christine Song

Using Bernoulli’s principle, the Remora wall system creates a zone of low pressure at the tail end of the structure, controlling the wind flow to produce different zones of acceleration.

Student Credits: Bennett Bossert, Paul Joran, Isaac Sharkan, Ryan Trinidade | Project Credits | PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Dana Čupková, Architecture CONSULTATION: William Jewell, Biological and Environmental Engineering; Kevin Pratt, Architecture; Francis C. Moon, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering