Studio albaghuba designs a weather-responsive coworking pod for Expo Dubai 2020.

The innovative prototype named “Corolla” is the culmination of research into soft-robotic responsive envelope systems, aimed to provide increased comfort and improved, energetically efficient solutions for outdoor living.

Following soft-robotic principles, the designers developed a lightweight and flexible skin that is able to adapt itself to changing outdoor conditions. Corolla is a technological oasis; it is a hybrid between indoor and outdoor, providing a comfortable and efficient space for meeting, working and sharing ideas all year round, and in any location.

Soft robotics is an emerging field in robotics that takes inspiration from nature and biology, in particular from invertebrates such as octopus or starfish, which are able to move without any rigid body parts. Replacing the biological substances with soft artificial materials, we are now able to emulate those biological mechanisms with significant advantages over traditional “rigid” robotics, such as reduced cost and weight and increased robustness and flexibility.

The prefabricated coworking pod is consisting of a modular steel structure which is enclosed by a soft-robotic skin system made of eight polyurethane pneumatic actuators. Each of these ‘petals’ is made of two internal air chamber networks, stamped with a special welding pattern which is designed to make the petal curl up or down when the chambers are pressurized, where the exact pressure difference between these chamber networks allows for a changing configuration, depending on the climate conditions.

The system is automated and activates entirely responsively thanks to a set of weather sensors, valves and an air-pumps, all regulated through a microcontroller. In this way, on a nice sunny day, the petals are left open to enjoy the natural airflow while providing shade from the sun, and on a rainy, cold or hot day the skin system closes to protect users from the elements while also providing for a thermally insulated space which can be climatically controlled for optimal comfort.

The pod is also equipped with a compact HVAC system for heating and cooling, WiFi, charging spots and a PV solar panel to reduce energy grid dependency.

This innovative prototype, investigating the crossroad between architecture and automation, was born with the vision of a more efficient and sustainable future, in which our built environment is no longer a static mass of matter, but rather it senses, moves and adapts to its environment, just like a living organism.

Corolla is designed by Milan-based studio albaghuba and developed in collaboration with Maco Technology Srl and Omer Alraee. It is one of the winning projects who participated in Design Competition Expo Dubai 2020 initiative promoted by Regione Lombardia and Camera di Commercio di Milano Monza Brianza Lodi in collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano.

The developed projects were recently exposed in HOMI Outdoors Fair in Rho Fiera Milano and will be subsequently showcased in several occasions this coming year, including Milano Design Week and during Expo Dubai 2020.