by Alexander Rundlöf
Goosebumps are a physiological phenomenon inherited from our animal ancestors. Even though it was useful to them, it is not of much help to us. However, experiencing how the chills run through your body and make your hair stand on end can be quite exhilirating. But what are these bumps and how do they appear? And what about turning them into architecture?
In short, goosebumps are tiny elevations of the skin that resemble of poultry after the feathers have been plucked. The bumps are caused by a contraction of miniature muscles that are attached to each hair. Each contracting muscle creates a depression on the skin surface, which causes the surrounding area to protrude. The phenomen of goosebums appear with many animals as they feel threatened – in a cat being attacked by a dog, for example. The elevated hair, together with the arched back and the sideward position the animal takes on, makes the cat appear bigger. This is an attempt to make the dog back off.
In addition to the fear/fight/flight reaction, cold is another reason for goosebumps in animals. The rising of hair expands the layer of air that is their insulation. The thicker the hair layer, the more heat is kept in. This is a reaction to cold that we often experience ourselves, however, it comes without much benefits as we do not have enough hair.
Applied in architecture – mechanical
So, is there a way of using this phenomena in buildings? Is it possible to use its benefits in order to reach new solutions in terms of thermal insulation? If directly translated, what keeps the heat in the event of goose bumps is the fur rather than the bumps. So what if a building could wear this fur as its facade? The fur could be one similar to that of many animals and alternate between laying and standing. That is, a facade changing with the changing temperature and light around it.
Applied in architecture – internal
But with a facade that completetly works on its own, as an organism creating its own goosebumps, a different solution must be made. Perhaps it might be necessary to change the properties of every individual hair. Most materials respond to changes in heat, just like ice melting and freezing again. If the core of each hair on a facade was filled with a matter that responds to daily heat changes by shape shifting, that is turning from solid to liquid and back, you could create a living fur. Theoretically, goosebumps could be created.
In the events of the day, it could be as follows. At night, the cold temperature would turn the core into a solid that expands, making the facade act as if in getting goosebumps. The hairs would then stand on end and creating that air layer of insulation. During the hot hours of the day, the solid within the hairs would turn to liquid, making the hairs hang along the facade. This would then create the shading layer.
So how to move on from here? Is there a way of creating these hairs? And can they be applied? Scientists from MIT have come up with a way of 3D printing hair-like structures on both flat and curved surfaces. The technique, called Cillia after the cilia filaments that project from nearly all mammal cells, allows a user to design and fabricate hair geometries. Two of the properties, controllable stiffness and texture is something I find very interesting. Perhaps that is a technique to consider in allowing buildings to experience those dazzling goosebumps.
Wikipedia. 2012. Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goose_bumps. [Accessed 18 September 2016].
Scientific American. 2003. Scientific American. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-humans-get-goosebu/. [Accessed 19 September 2016].
Jasmin Malik Chua. 2016. Ecotuerre. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ecouterre.com/could-3d-printed-programmable-fur-become-a-thing/. [Accessed 19 September 2016].