Hygroscapes: Innovative shape shifting façades

Sherif Abdelmohsen*, Sigrid Adriaenssens, Stefano Gabriele, Luigi Olivieri, Rana El-Dabaa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDigital Wood Design
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9783030036768
ISBN (Print)9783030036751
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Civil Engineering
ISSN (Print)2366-2557
ISSN (Electronic)2366-2565


  • Flexible wood
  • Generative design
  • Hygroscopy
  • Programmable matter
  • Shape shifting facades

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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