House of the future like living in an iPad

Life inside the next generation of western habitat will be something like nesting inside an iPad, a Paris-wide exhibition on design indicated this week.

No need to turn on a tap or raise a toilet lid, smart sensors will do it for you. Toilet seats are warm, the bathtub remembers how best you like the water, and walls function like screen-savers, changing colour or design at a touch.

“A few years back, when people thought about the future they’d think there’d be lots of knobs and buttons, but now that’s not so – it’s all tactile and touch-screen,” said Vincent Barue, an award-winning architect of 27 taking part in Paris’ Designers Days.

A decade from now, he said, entire building facades will be like tactile 3-D screens, communicating with passers-by or with nature, morphing with the wind, responding to the news.

“People will walk on LED-incrusted floors that change light and come alive,” he said.

“Water will be entirely recycled within each home, running on a closed circuit. Apart from the drinking water, there’ll be zero water consumption, even for people with swimming pools.”

At the six-day design event, gathering designers, brands, schools, museums and Paris city hall, Barue’s architecture office threw up 20 visions of the bathroom in the year 2100.

“I see bathrooms as being increasingly important in the future,” he told AFP. “Because people will be more into well-being, into their image. Bathrooms, the ultimate private space, will be the heart of the house.”

His imaginary bathrooms feature cocoon-like tubs – using air or ultrasounds rather than water to cleanse the body – and intelligent walls and plasma-like screens that at a touch recreate virtual worlds, such as forests or sands.

“We now have 22nd century phones but live in 19th century houses. It’s time to catch up,” said Yacine Ait Kaci, half of an architect-cum-designer duo whose Glass House home of the future is one of the highlights of the Paris event.

Made of intelligent glass that veers from transparent to opaque at the flick of a switch, the Glass House is a 21st century habitat where residents can project colours and shapes and images on walls like so many touch-screens.

“You transform physical space, so that materials becomes immaterial,” he said. “The home becomes an image, the image becomes a home.”

Ait Kaci sees the habitat of the future as a minimalist space with little furniture but immense scope for the imagination through the use of technology – “you give the home your own emotions so that even a small space becomes livable.”

His intelligent glass, filled with liquid crystals, is one of several new materials invented by Quantum Glass, owned by giant French glassmaker Saint-Gobain. It can be used as a transparent door to a toilet that turns opaque when someone enters, or the wall of a meeting-room that blacks out when a meeting begins.

Designer products winding up in homes, hotels or workplaces, the Paris event showed, are often the result of industrial advance and technological progress.

Also from Quantum Glass is a glass that heats, perfect for radiators, and one that lights, turned into glowing coffee-tables by new generations of French designers following in the footsteps of cult figure Philippe Starck. Among them are Patrick Jouin, Arik Levy, Matali Crasset and Francois Azambourg.

A Be-Green urban home on show in the French capital features another increasingly popular designer material – stretch PVC ceilings that both insulate against noise and save on non-environmentally-friendly plaster.

“Only four years ago this was a niche, no one was interested,” said architect Barue. “Now everyone wants a stretch ceiling.”

With water- and energy-saving high on the agenda for designers and architects, the Be-Green shelter, insulated with mush made from recycled jeans, actually produces more energy than it consumes.

Source : AFP – 16 Jun 2010

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