The row house is a staple of urban development, creating side-by-side neighbors with at least one sidewall in common with the next house. In March, the International Building Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, displayed a new twist on the row house—the newest Soft House, designed by Kennedy & Violich Architects Ltd. (KVA) MATx, Boston, Mass., and 360+ Architekten of Hamburg. One twist is a movable, flexible exterior façade that harvests energy through a network of photovoltaic nanomaterials in textile “twisters” that respond to the sun’s orientation, the first two-axis soft solar tracking system.
The Soft House structure is solid spruce wood construction with wood dowel joints, making the building fully recyclable at the end of its life. The solar tracking façade moves to capture clean energy, and interior smart curtains that move on tracks configure space, provide solid-state lighting and create personal micro-climates. The LED lighting that moves with the curtains creates a “visual breeze,” an ambient luminous expression of the external environment. Each unit is three stories high with a parking space, and a plumbing core that allows homeowners to configure the interior, choosing the number of bedrooms and the kitchen location they prefer.