PhD Research exhibited at Potenziale 3 I aut. architektur und tirol (october 2021 – february 2022)

Andreas Körner

As environmental responsibility becomes more prevalent, architects are encouraged to seek alternative mechanical heating and cooling solutions where possible. This has resulted in a shift in design thinking from a desire for a uniformly heated indoor environment to a more varied and comfortable one. However, expressing the thermodynamic qualities actively can be challenging as most thermal comfort parameters are not visible and difficult to communicate across distances. This research project aims to explore solutions for this dilemma by examining it from the architect’s perspective and creatively embracing sustainability, passive environmental strategies, and ecological thinking to generate intricate and sustainable ornamentation using new digital fabrication and design methodologies.

Thermochromic materials change colour when their temperature exceeds a certain threshold, allowing for a hue, saturation, or transparency change. The project specifically focused on a change in transparency, revealing the underlying material above a temperature threshold of 27C – the same temperature at which a room’s temperature is commonly perceived as uncomfortable. Computational fluid dynamics simulations were used to simulate temperature and airflow changes along surfaces with distinct topological characters such as density, thickness, directionality, and gradient. The results were then used as input for a digital generative design process, with the geometries fabricated using a CNC mill and coated with thermochromic ink. The prototypes were exposed to heat in a series of experiments, and the changing visual appearance was documented systematically using thermal imagery, photos, and videos. This allowed the gained material to be catalogued and compared, leading to a better understanding of the relationship between simulation, prototype, and performance.

There is a demand for innovative design solutions that use smart materials and passive strategies to communicate environmental conditions and parameters of indoor climate to inhabitants. While existing research into thermochromic elements in architecture has mainly focused on the technological aspects of surface actuation, this research project explored the design consequences of a generative design process that uses invisible environmental parameters to drive performative reliefs.

Link to the exhibition at aut. architektur und tirol:
Link to the exhibition at the department:
Link to Materiability:


Acknowledgements: Catalina Tripolt (research assistant), Julian Edelmann (robot), Kilian Bauer (robot), Ernest Hager (CNC), Philipp Schwaderer (cera.LAB), Jan Contala (cera.LAB)

Funding: Tiroler Wissenschaftsförderung (TWF), Land Tirol

Timeline: May 2020 – May 2021