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Issue 5.1

Research Redux

I was about three years into my doctoral studies at Harvard’s GSD when three questions, or more accurately, three challenges to my work, were posed. For context, I was part of the initial wave of academic researchers and practitioners who were enamored with all things “smart,” particularly walls in whatever nominative designation rendered them as technologically advanced and functionally, if not formally novel: smart skins, intelligent facades, performative glazing, interactive surfaces, adaptive envelopes. Inspired by the cover of James Marston Fitch’s seminal text, American Building: The Environmental Forces That Shape It, depicting a building envelope as mediating the full sweep of environmental phenomena, I planned to develop a wall system to control all scales of heat transfer, thereby covering thermal, luminous, and acoustic behaviors—the ultimate smart wall.