Hygroscapes: Innovative Shape Shifting Façades

  • Sherif AbdelmohsenEmail author
  • Sigrid Adriaenssens
  • Stefano Gabriele
  • Luigi Olivieri
  • Rana El-Dabaa
Part of the Lecture Notes in Civil Engineering book series (LNCE, volume 24)


This chapter focuses on the testing and design of shape shifting façade prototypes that are programmed to passively sense stimuli and respond in a controlled setting based on the hygroscopic properties of wood. Wood is introduced in this context as a low-tech smart material with a naturally soft responsive mechanism that offers a substitute for mechanical actuators. First, a set of physical experiments were conducted to deduce the design parameters that affect wood morphology, behavior and response time upon changes in humidity levels and moisture content, including dimensional ratio, grain orientation, material thickness, type of wood, and lamination. We then report on the process and outcome of a workshop held at the American University in Cairo, with the main challenge of regulating the morphology and hygroscopic behavior of wood to work as an actuator with specifically desired motion for adaptive building façade prototypes. Based on the observations and analysis of concepts and mechanisms, we discuss shape shifting grammars as a framework for devising adaptive façade prototypes from a generative design perspective, where specific combinations of motion parameters are used to induce semantic rules and customized commands for the overall behavior of shape shifting mechanisms.


Flexible wood Shape shifting facades Hygroscopy Generative design Programmable matter 



The authors are grateful for the support of the Bartlett’s Fund for Science and Engineering Research Collaboration provided to the American University in Cairo, Princeton University, and University Roma Tre. They would also like to thank Veronica Boyce, Aly Ibrahim, Passaint Massoud and Tasbeh Mokbel for their support in the workshop setup, and students of the Department of Architecture at the American University in Cairo: Maia Abdelalim, Salma Abdelfattah, Maram Abou El Enein, Yara Adly, Dina Afifi, Rehab Ahmed, Omar Assem, Moshira Ayad, Laila Azmi, Nouran Badawy, Mariam Barsoum, Rami El Hosseiny, Aly El Sinbawi, Omar Elbayoumi, Reem Gamil, Maryam Gazzaz, Mennatallah Helal, Nour Hussein, Raghda Ismail, Zeina Lasheen, Lina Mahgoub, Noura Mohamed, Kareem Rabie, Sandra Saad, Atheer Salama, Yara Saleh, Lama Saleh, Reem Sayed and Malak Seoudi for their active participation during the workshops.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sherif Abdelmohsen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sigrid Adriaenssens
    • 3
  • Stefano Gabriele
    • 4
  • Luigi Olivieri
    • 4
  • Rana El-Dabaa
    • 5
  1. 1.American University in CairoNew CairoEgypt
  2. 2.Ain Shams UniversityCairoEgypt
  3. 3.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  4. 4.Roma Tre UniversityRomeItaly
  5. 5.Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime TransportCairoEgypt

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