written by:
April 29, 2010

A building envelop is to a structure as our skin is to our bodies. But whereas our protective outer layers are responsive to the environment (both inside and outside ourselves), the walls that wrap around a building often fail to adapt to their changing surroundings. In Envelopes, an exhibit that opened at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery in March and closes May 5, guest curator Christopher Hight invited designers from around the world to create their visions of sustainable building surfaces that take on the sensory and responsive qualities of human skin.

On display by <a href="http://www.future-cities-lab.net">Future Cities Lab</a> founding design partners Nataly Gattegno and Jason Kelly Johnson is <i>XEROMAX</i>. The human-harvesting-like cables a la <i>The Matrix</i> are part of a prototype wall for des
On display by Future Cities Lab founding design partners Nataly Gattegno and Jason Kelly Johnson is XEROMAX. The human-harvesting-like cables a la The Matrix are part of a prototype wall for desert living that clibrates, tunes, records, and responds to energy cycles and interactions over time. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
1 / 13
Here, the reverse side of Future Cities Lab's <i>XEROMAX</i> prototype wall for a desert habitat. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
Here, the reverse side of Future Cities Lab's XEROMAX prototype wall for a desert habitat. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
2 / 13
Designed by Marcelyn Gow, Ulrika Karlsson, and Chris Perry of <a href="http://www.s-e-r-v-o.com/">servo</a>, <i>Hydrophile</i> is prototype hydrodynamic green rood. Undulating like rolling hills above, the roof creates spaces of varying volumes below with
Designed by Marcelyn Gow, Ulrika Karlsson, and Chris Perry of servo, Hydrophile is prototype hydrodynamic green rood. Undulating like rolling hills above, the roof creates spaces of varying volumes below with openings to the sky overhead. Image courtesy servo.
3 / 13
Conceptual artist and Rice University architecture professor envisions modern day Garden Cities, rings of lush landscapes outside the metropolitan center rather than cookie-cutter suburbs. Her <i>Hydroponic Curtain Wall</i>, designed with Kevin Topek and
Conceptual artist and Rice University architecture professor envisions modern day Garden Cities, rings of lush landscapes outside the metropolitan center rather than cookie-cutter suburbs. Her Hydroponic Curtain Wall, designed with Kevin Topek and Carlisle Vandervoort, is part of a larger project to transform Houston, Texas, properties into green-garden-filled spaces. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
4 / 13
At the exhibition, Mary Ellen Carroll's <i>Hydroponic Curtain Wall</i> stands near <a href="http://www.houminn.com/">HouMinn Practice</a>'s white <i>OSWall</i>. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
At the exhibition, Mary Ellen Carroll's Hydroponic Curtain Wall stands near HouMinn Practice's white OSWall. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
5 / 13
Here, the reverse side of HouMinn Practice's <i>OSWall</i>. Its name, short for Open Source Wall, is derived from the firm's crowdsourcing efforts to tap the minds of designers, engineers, and DIYs in search of new construction technologies, systems, and
Here, the reverse side of HouMinn Practice's OSWall. Its name, short for Open Source Wall, is derived from the firm's crowdsourcing efforts to tap the minds of designers, engineers, and DIYs in search of new construction technologies, systems, and strategies and the wall is an example of some of those ideas. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
6 / 13
This curious little piece, dubbed <i>Aération Douce par Renouvellement d’Air Double Flux (Gentle Aeration by Double Flow Ventilation)</i>, is the work of Swiss architect <a href="http://www.philipperahm.com">Philippe Rahm</a>. It's part of Rahm’s <i>Terro
This curious little piece, dubbed Aération Douce par Renouvellement d’Air Double Flux (Gentle Aeration by Double Flow Ventilation), is the work of Swiss architect Philippe Rahm. It's part of Rahm’s Terroirs Deterritorialises, which comrpises a series of pieces used to measures and mediates humidity, temperature, and airflow. Photo courtesy VIA (Valorisation de l'Innovation dans l'Ameublement), Paris.
7 / 13
Also by Rahm is <i>Eclairage (Lighting)</i>. After <i>Envelopes</i> closes, these pieces will become part of the permanent collection at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Photo courtesy VIA (Valorisation de l'Innovation dans l'Ameublement), Paris.
Also by Rahm is Eclairage (Lighting). After Envelopes closes, these pieces will become part of the permanent collection at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Photo courtesy VIA (Valorisation de l'Innovation dans l'Ameublement), Paris.
8 / 13
On view from Michael U. Hensel and Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel at <a href="http://www.ocean-designresearch.net/">OCEAN Design Research</a> are several ideas for new building surfaces, including this <i>Complex Brick Assemblies</i> prototype. Image courtesy De
On view from Michael U. Hensel and Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel at OCEAN Design Research are several ideas for new building surfaces, including this Complex Brick Assemblies prototype. Image courtesy Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel.
9 / 13
Also on display from OCEAN Design Research, <i>Auxiliary Architecture</i>. Photo courtesy Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel.
Also on display from OCEAN Design Research, Auxiliary Architecture. Photo courtesy Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel.
10 / 13
The <i>Hydrogen House</i> by <a href="http://indiearchitecture.com/">!ndie architecture</a> is a design for a suburban home that connects the interior to the exterior and larger community via responsive energy measuring. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
The Hydrogen House by !ndie architecture is a design for a suburban home that connects the interior to the exterior and larger community via responsive energy measuring. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
11 / 13
These glowing slug-like blobs are the creation of environmental design office <a href="http://www.w-e-a-t-h-e-r-s.com/">Weathers</a>. Dubbed <i>Climate Design</i>, each hump houses a light, water reserve, heating filament, agitator to create a water vapor
These glowing slug-like blobs are the creation of environmental design office Weathers. Dubbed Climate Design, each hump houses a light, water reserve, heating filament, agitator to create a water vapor and/or heat, and seating element. The goal is to create microclimates outdoors based on the clustering of each unit and the people sitting on them. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.
12 / 13
Here, a rendering of grouped <i>Climate Design</i> units creating a warm space in an outdoor park. Image courtesy of Weathers.
Here, a rendering of grouped Climate Design units creating a warm space in an outdoor park. Image courtesy of Weathers.
13 / 13
On display by <a href="http://www.future-cities-lab.net">Future Cities Lab</a> founding design partners Nataly Gattegno and Jason Kelly Johnson is <i>XEROMAX</i>. The human-harvesting-like cables a la <i>The Matrix</i> are part of a prototype wall for des
On display by Future Cities Lab founding design partners Nataly Gattegno and Jason Kelly Johnson is XEROMAX. The human-harvesting-like cables a la The Matrix are part of a prototype wall for desert living that clibrates, tunes, records, and responds to energy cycles and interactions over time. Photo courtesy Diana Pau.

Watch the slideshow to see images from the exhibition.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016
The Greenhouses of Half Moon Bay
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 03, 2016
Deck of Australian addition to Edwardian home.
A 1,500-square-foot home in Melbourne welcomes a modern black and white kitchen, dining, and living area.
February 03, 2016
open plan concrete home in japan
Embracing the organic, imperfect material, these raw concrete surfaces are a step up from exposed brick.
February 03, 2016
Renovated DC Row House loft space with Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair.
The classic designer's signature and comfortable forms continue to be popular in homes today.
February 03, 2016
Zinc-roofed cabin France.
An architect builds an energy-efficient home near one of France’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
February 03, 2016
1973 Palm Springs home
Made for casual design enthusiasts and Palm Springs connoisseurs alike, Unseen Midcentury Desert Modern offers a peek into 51 buildings—some not open to the public—in that Southern California mecca of modernism. Begun in 2008 by photographer Dan Chavkin, the book is set for release this February 9th and will be available on Amazon and at multiple venues of Modernism Week in Palm Springs, February 11 - 21. Here we preview some of its images.
February 03, 2016
Millennial concept home with an outdoor living area
A concept home aims to reflect the requests of the Millennial market.
February 03, 2016
The two twelve-by-sixteen-foot bedrooms, directly above a comparable pair on the first floor, feature a glass transom that follows the pitch of the roof. “The stair and railings were very simple,” Depardon observes. “We added a bit of design, with panels
Skylights needn't be simple overhead daylighting; sometimes they can truly define a room.
February 03, 2016
Modern small space Rhode Island cottage with landscaping and cedar cladding
Surrounded by nature, these cottages are tranquil retreats from the city.
February 03, 2016
The couple kept original touches, including the arch.
Historic archways belie these contemporary homes with physical reminders of each structure's storied past.
February 03, 2016
modern guesthouse in norway with angular facade and cutaway patio with spruce cladding and ikea chair
These houses make room for nature, not the other way around.
February 02, 2016
Modern kitchen with yellow sectioned walls and monochrome appliances
Whether it's a splash of color or bold strokes, this collection of interiors brightens up these homes.
February 02, 2016
Rust-washed concrete wall in Moscow apartment renovation.
This 590-square-foot apartment was stripped down to admit sunlight and dramatically reveal forgotten surfaces.
February 02, 2016
Nendo's collection of objects inspired by Star Wars
In a galaxy not so far away, Japanese studio Nendo has released a versatile collection of objects inspired by classic Star Wars characters.
February 02, 2016