Innovation, diversity important to architecture, speaker says

Adria Barbour

If Gail Peter Borden has his way, people of the future will be living in houses made out of rubber bands and houses that expand on their own.

Borden, professor of architecture at North Carolina State University, spoke at the University Auditorium last night as a part of the Spring Design Lecture series, sponsored by Undergraduate Student Senate.

Architects should get back to their artistic roots and highlight ways to innovate architecture, Borden said.

In his speech, he explained how his company, Borden Partnership, was being innovative through research and experiments. He said architecture is based more on the features of a house, such as air conditioning and multiple bathrooms, rather than using space efficiently.

Borden said using space inefficiently leads to irrational building.

“For some reason, a kitchen island is more important than the quality of space,” Borden said.

During his presentation, he showcased slides of similar houses in different suburbs of Houston and Raleigh. Borden said people can buy similar things like houses, but they don’t. How people arrange what they buy is a signature to their specific identity, and this is where architects can find their niches.

“Suburban houses are dominated by standardization,” Borden said. “The insertion of diversity will find any kind of success.”

Architects should look for a way to insert themselves into proactive designs, Borden said. Borden Partnership created ideas such as rubber band houses and expanding homes. The rubber band home started out as a model that won a Dutch rubber band contest. The idea was to integrate rubber bands into the structure of the house. The model used rubber reinforced with steel to create a wall that would create a ripple effect when touched.

The expanding home is one that can keep being built onto as often as the homeowner needs or can afford.

Most people go to a starter home then a more expensive home, Borden said. The expanding house would eliminate that nomadic activity and make houses less expensive and more customized.

“We are always aware of cost,” Borden said. “Being an architect is less of being an innovator and more of being a consumer.”

Borden discussed how his firm approaches the prospect of diversity through four separate parts of research. The first part dealt with understanding the history and current development of the single-family house.

The second part involved looking at materials used in building the houses. The research also included looking at new materials to incorporate into houses and seeing how old materials could be rethought.

The third leg of the research dealt with how much the materials cost and how they are built into the structure of the house. The last part of the research project dealt with understanding architecture itself and how space is used in a home.

All this research was used to create a program called The Anywhere House, which deals with the functional compositions of a household, or making all the rooms in a house serve a function, like a spare room.

“As an architect, people are waiting for someone to ask for their design,” Borden said. “Make design a necessity, not a luxury.”

Contact student affairs reporter Adria Barbour at [email protected].