Erin Chartrand | Senior Research Studio 2013

Vera Parlac | Faculty Supervisor



Responsive Architecture

Exploring transformable space and surfaces in response to its immediate environment is the basis for this project. Looking at architecture and biology as inspiration, the study of coccolithophores, a single celled algae found in the euphotic zone of the ocean, have contributed to the formation of components and movement of the space. Referencing the structural accumulation of the Emiliania huxleyi coccolithes as well as the bloom patterns of this phytoplankton, the architecture flows through motion as a breathing mechanism locally within each surface component and globally through the strands of these components that make up the responsive spatial conditions.

With the program being a performing arts centre, the goal of the project is to respond to this movement and interaction, just as to have the architecture act as a performance itself. Being a small scale, informal and public performance space, the project deals with a socially responsive space where the movement of the people influences the architectural form and response just as the movement of the surfaces and architecture influence the people using and interacting within the space.

The internal space is to have the ability to transform itself with response to occupancy. Dependent on the user needs it can alter the size of itself as well as the number of physical spaces within it. This is an important transformation within the project as the program allows for multiple types of use to take place, all of which may have different spatial needs. The action of the interior space is to have a relationship with the exterior facade, developing a working dialogue referencing the visual and spatial energy of the coccolithophore blooms.


The project has been placed within the urban context as to draw on the activity and movement that takes place in the core and downtown setting. While it is located in Calgary on the corner of 6th Avenue and 2nd street SW, the system is not site specific as it is adaptable and may be located in multiple areas of the city. The surface condition and spatial adaptability is in response to public movement and activity, creating an interactive space that can be adjusted for multiple uses.

Process of growing and shedding with reference to the internal environment. Designated as an informal performing arts centre, the project acts as a space allowing for multiple configurations to house multiple events. When not in use for events, the area acts as a passageway engaging the public who walk through or simple spend time within building. With uses, performance or casual, the architecture itself embodies the notion of performance as its response system only occurs with reference to its audience.