Hexapods: a new vernacular architecture
In 2014 the general number for the displaced population was 38 million*. Taking Ethiopia as a case study, one of the fastest population growth countries, where political land regulations work against the majority of its citizens, displacement is something that occurs to many, unpredictably and with little to none reaction time. However, context shouldn’t be looked in a specific region, but rather, in numbers. Data is the new context. Countries mostly affected by displacement are the ones who have a higher population growth rate, and are usually the ones with the lowest resources. This, among other crucial responses, calls for a transitional architectural solution which is capable to adapt and quickly react under such distressed circumstances.

The ancestral knowledge of lightweight, transformable and adaptable tents in vernacular Ethiopian nomadic architecture becomes essential. The key direction is the merge of this highly practical knowledge with our modern technology, creating safe, responsive, adjustable structures capable of providing a sense of belonging, appropriation, and community.

A component-based system was developed which is easily dismantled, assembled, light and packable by analyzing the knots in tensile structures used in Ethiopian nomadic cultures. This was done at 2 levels: as an isolated building component, which can easily change function, and as components in a pattern that can be repeated over and over again to create a weaving structure. The “geometrization” of the knot using x, y and z axes with the coordinates corresponding to the movements necessary to tie a knot, allowed an abstraction and translation of the qualities of knot-based construction into another medium: an equilateral triangular prism, and an arrow headed stick, allowing 3 connection points and a new architectural relation of knot:rope.

A hexagonal spatial configuration, provides a compact and packable structure developed into a prototypical construction system. Its frame is assembled flat, erected using torsion by twisting it upright and locked in place with electro-permanent magnetic joints. The magnetic joints allow a much quicker assembly time. Collapse is prevented using minimal surface membranes at 3 of the 6 facades. Hexapods can be interconnected, allowing growth and expansion. This system also enables community participation and an expression of cultural identity through the potential application of local materials where the minimal surface is not structurally necessary. Just as the use of knots, the Hexapods allow rapid construction (60 minutes) and deconstruction of dwellings (30 minutes).

In a potential use of technology, Hexapods can react to external stimuli due to sensors, which allow water collection and solar energy collection – therefore, informing the inhabitants of their surroundings which could facilitate eventual livelihood activities like personal farming. A prototype of Hexapods was built using high-performance magnets, plywood components, canvas membranes and in situ materials. The goal of this research was to create a system that can be adaptable, compatible with varied length of building lifecycle and therefore malleable within a highly changeable context.

*according to the IDMC


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