Snap! - Bistable Structure by Team 01Para



A group of graduate students called Team 01Para, from the MArch Design Research Laboratory course at the Architectural Association in London have sent us these images of a conceptual design called Snap! - Bistable Structure.


The team consists of Stella Nikolakaki, Sevil Yazici, Jesse Chima and Eugene Leung.


According to Leung, the project proposes a workspace that can be reconfigured using "the material behavior of Bistable Structure, aka curved spring metal found in common slap bracelets."


The concept was designed for software company SAP AG, for a site in Farringdon, London.

The information below is from Team 01Para:


In the era of globalization, competition is fierce across the continents.  Adaptation, therefore, is not a fancy slogan, but a crucial concept for companies and their workplace.


Team 01Para, an AA Design Research Lab team, explores the material behavior of Bistable Structure, aka curved spring metal found in common slap bracelets.  Through rapid internal collapse, it possesses the capacity to deploy new architectural boundaries.  As a result, the conceptual proposal is an adaptive workplace, capable of self spatial reconfiguration based on changes in business structure, for SAP AG.


Alone, the spring metal is only stable in two states: when it is extended straight and when it is contracted into a coil.  The research, however, connects two layer strips together.  The connections provide resisting force and divide the strips into segments, therefore limiting and confining the collapse within the segments and domesticate what would otherwise be a ferocious collapse to the user-preferred way.  This design is patent pending.


Prototype models depicted in the photographs show how snapping at different segments at different sequences might result in different kinds of spatial cluster.  In the perspective renders, layered pairs and buckled curves suggest a form that is remote from the conventional paradigm of floor-slab repetitive office towers.


For more details of the project, visit

Intelligent Bi-Stable Structure System is in the Patent pending process, with application number 0700710.7, infringes will be liable for all the damages caused.


















Posted on Saturday January 17th 2009 at 12:58 am by Rachael Sykes. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • J

    interesting concept, nice rendering and appreciate the handmade models

  • snow

    whoa, that got really interesting really fast

  • NMiller

    As a conceptual project, this is pretty cool. I enjoy all of the small studies that were used to explore the structural concept.

    The final product as a “flexible” office building feels rather rushed, however. The Deleuzian question remains: “Does it work?” As structure…maybe…
    as office, I don’t think so, unless they know something about SAP AG that I don’t.

  • alan

    so does this proposal assume the inhabitants are the size of ants?
    the material propensity of a slap band has nothing in common with a steel framed building in this configuration. did a vital step get lost somewhere along the way?

  • togon

    interesting! again dezeen, larger pix upon clicking please! we can’t see what’s going on.

  • matt

    is the patent pending for 20cm long bands or for a real building?
    either it’s already done, either there’s no way to build it…

    i’m glad DRL was celebrating his 10 years anniversary, maybe it should have only been a 10y long experience?

  • christopher

    Interesting concept; great exploration. I won’t believe this can be a structure on the scale proposed in the renderings until I see it though. While I applaud it’s goals of adaptability, wouldn’t it be dangerous to have a giant bistable spring whooshing quickly through the air – even if it’s into a ‘user-preferred’ configuration?

  • pwnado season

    The most depressing thing about seeing these types of projects is that it seems that a whole bunch of people spent a lot of time working really, really hard, probably lost a lot of sleep and just generally compromised on the quality of their lives to realise a project that seems to be based on a really flimsy conceptual framework. I agree with an earlier post that to assume that certain material properties and behaviours that work on a small scale would automatically work on a scale a thousand times as large seems a little ridiculous, but it seems that this is what this entire project is predicated on. Moreover, the project aims to achieve flexibility of workspace arrangements as an end result but the idea of these looping bands of steel which act as both floor, ceiling and partition being easily reconfigurable is not something that would/could be remotely practical. The actual composition of volumes in the final model is quite beautiful however the argument that rationalises those volumes just doesn’t cut it with me.

  • andy

    “What is this?! A center for ANTS?!”

    It’s a nice idea and the process/models looks fun, but I’m really wondering how this is actually executed.

  • gaque

    how to slap gigantic slap bands? imagine the noise that would make…

    imagine if it got struck by lightning and everything got reconfigured!

    i dont like this very much at all. i DO really thing the models are good…but theres no concept of the actual feeling of the space, its totally external to human perception…too removed.

  • Joe

    Great stuff, except for the impending lawsuits. It’s all fun and games until someone sits on your desk which then snaps out of configuration and injures the office lankey. Fun times!

  • What do you do with all the *stuff* inside a building when you decide to “reconfigure” it? are the plumbing,ductwork , carpet and lighting part of this exploration as well? If the answer is that the building will only be reconfigured between tenant occupation, then how is this concept better than an old-fashioned industrial building that can be “reconfigured” without the same trouble between tenants?
    What happens to the exterior walls and glazing? The paint? How does the project team assume that their building has the room around it to change? That every site is flexibile enough to let the building be anything it’s owners/developers want it to be. Come on! this is beyond ridiculous. This research has to be,at best, a means to get some attention to get paying work.

  • birdie

    AA is not the same AA what it was few decades ago, isnt it? in shining light of relatively recent graduates who became starchitects, it looks like they are moving further and further away from reality for sake of over-intellectualising architecture.

    there is very interesing article on arch-daily about the end of starchitecture era by the way

  • sputnik

    I’m afraid this doesn’t work in the same way that you can’t scale up a mouse to the size of an elephant and assume it will work the same.

    *Materials work differently at different scales.*

    Any more late-night rendering, deleuzean text, or pending patents will just make this look more silly than it already is… which is very silly indeed.

  • pwnado season

    I would also love to know how this project was critiqued within the AA….Did they see it as having value, or were the same criticisms levelled within the posts a reflection of their opinions…

  • Andreas

    Interesting article about the implications of size:

  • roadkill

    boycott israel… and help Gaza

  • bald skull

    roadkill is an idiot

  • peridotprince

    These are fantastic comments and very helpful as an educator.

    As pointed out, this investigation lacks any baseline common sense – structure and building systems. Without that, it never leaves the sandbox of the diagram. I am putting this Dezeen entry and all comments on file.

  • amsam

    I once got slapped in one of these forums for pointing out the practical impossibility of a project. Now I’m trying to open my mind to the “sandbox” nature of some of Dezeen’s posts. I enjoyed this one on that level. But it does seem like a lot of time has been wasted here on something that will never see the light of day.

  • aalto

    The fantastic intrinsic beauty of architecture is that it gets drawn, built, maintained, used, mortgaged, admired, financed, etc. and at the same time it can (has to?) be a fantastic piece of art. It is time that the AA and similar schools of architecture thought stop applauding conceptual studies as architecture. It is our professional duty as architects and designers to understand the implications of the built reality, for our users, clients and the coming generations.

  • Gabs

    Interesting, although work like this was made during the Corporate Fields period of the DRL…

  • C.H.Hon

    AHHH those are the magnetic metal strips on drawing board!
    Nice working process

  • K

    If dezeen existed 30 years ago, I’m guessing people would be saying the same things about Archigram with their flying cities and fantastic imagination, from which the likes of the Pompidou Centre emerged.

    I think this kind of conceptual thinking, although seemingly very prevelant, should be encouraged more. We are all creatives, why should we be supressing creativity and new ideas? I agree, it seems improbable that this kind of form and concept could ever hold any kind of structural or commercial value, but that is not the point. These guys have, without compromise, just ran with an idea that we haven’t seen before, and that might one day lead to something physical or at least begin the discussion about how this could actually work from someone else. I personally commend the group for developing as far as they did – as its not usual to see physical models of these concepts to help demonstrate that the idea actually managed to evolve away from the rendering software.

    Sweet project anyway!

  • A bistable spring has two low potential energy states in which no power is required from an actuator to keep it locked. However the switch from one state to the other is “extremely fast” and can be very dangerous in a large structure, for example in an earth quake or vibration caused from other man made sources over period of time.

    That being said a dynamical energy storage spring is not useful in a static structure or a statically stable element like a truss or a house frame. This is very obvious since the bistable element will never be of any use if its locked up in a structure rather then being a bistable element for e.g a simply supported beam with central loading will lose its bistabilty if it is supported from the middle.