“Duct-less” Seuss


“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,
it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong
end of a telescope, and that enables you to laugh
at life’s realities.”

– Dr. Seuss


 Horton Hears a Who – © Dr. Seuss

the Elephant in the Room

In Dr. Seuss’s fantastical world
You may find a cat in a hat,
Or a series of piping unfurled
And sometimes, an elephant at that

Perhaps for me, one of the notable features in many Whoville architecture is the constant churning and pumping of pipes! Of course, physics tells us that the pipes cannot dramatically expand and contract to push that air through a chimney like a toothpaste tube can. However, as seen in many illustrated animations, the medium allows for these exaggerations that go beyond life’s realities.

But why not? I wonder…

What if air ducts were not a static element? Can they be flexible and contract and expand as needed? What if HVAC becomes integrated into a woven fabric that can deliver the required air, filtration, and heat through the microscale? Imagine a Who-manhattan that is made of these fabrics – infrastructure and space are no longer separate.

Where in 1977, it was about revealing technology – with ducts and piping literally pulled out from the building – Centre Pompidou, in 2017, it will be about concealing technology –with embedded micro-tubing that serves as a conveyance as well as an enclosure of space. No longer do we need to treat mechanical systems as the big elephant in a room.


The Foot Book  – © Dr. Seuss

the Shoe

Sometimes a shoe is big
Sometimes it is small
But best of all
When it fits like a jig

There are certainly ways to achieve this esophagus-like contraption. I’m certainly excited about Nike’s upcoming self-lacing shoes.[1] Through a simple pressure sensor, pattern recognition, and automated retractable laces, the shoes will be able to track my typical activities and self-lace (with the correct tightness) accordingly. Additionally, it can also adjust on the fly, such as in jumping or stretching activities.

Can we then imagine a tube that can transport air through a series of contracting mechanical “muscles” that responds to air circulation sensors within a given room? Can the tube itself self-adjust to allow more or less air without the need for a flap valve?


Oh, the Places You’ll Go! – © Dr. Seuss

the Silly Putty

What is a silly putty you may ask?
Something like a piece of chewed gum
Sometimes like liquid in a flask
Sometimes like solid as a plum

I remember playing with the silly putty as a child. It is quite a remarkable material capable of both a solid-like as well as a liquid-like appearance depending on external pressures. Since the accidental invention of the putty, we’ve recently looked for ways to produce materials that are also capable of changing properties.

Researchers at the Self-Assembly Lab are hard at work formulating ways in which carbon fiber mesh can morph through external activators like heat.[2] Through the design of the surface-printed active material, they are able to control how each mesh behaves when subjected to heat. Simultaneously, NASA is working with FlexSys on a FlexFoil product that would allow for the wing surface of an aircraft to change shape in flight.[3] It has been almost ten years since NASA first revealed a compelling animation of a morphing aircraft wing and it is only now that we are a lot closer to making that a reality.[4]

The question is now around scale.  Can we program a material to contract and expand at the microscale so to allow for small amounts of air to be captured, transported, and released? Maybe, rather than controlling the movement of the whole, it becomes a matter of controlling the movement of each strand of a material in relation to each other – like two strings of magnets that can be programmed for when they attract/close and repel/open.

The Duct-less Seuss – Anesta Iwan

the Duct-less Seuss

Rather than focus on the fiction-ness of Dr. Seuss’ stories and imageries, can we use these fantasies to rethink and recreate what we have considered the reality? I once heard a Who tell me that “Ductless spaces are already happening in Whoville”- now it’s time for reality to catch up!


[1] Stinson, Liz. 2016. “Nike’S Back To The Future Self-Lacing Shoe, The Hyperadapt 1.0, Is Finally Here”. WIRED. http://www.wired.com/2016/03/nikes-back-future-self-lacing-shoe-hyperadapt-1-0-finally/#slide-1.

[2] “Self-Assembly Lab”. 2016. Selfassemblylab.Net. http://www.selfassemblylab.net/ProgrammableMaterials.php.

[3] Tsang, Kenneth and Kenneth Tsang. 2014. “NASA Releases Video Of Flexfoil™ Tests”. Flexsys. http://www.flxsys.com/blog/2014/12/23/nasa-releases-video-of-flexfoil-tests.

[4] “Morphing Aircraft”. 2016. Understandingnano.Com. http://www.understandingnano.com/video-morphing-aircraft.html.


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