Responsive Surfaces

Paula Van Brummelen
MA Graduation Project 
Supervison Prof. Dr. Zane Berzina


The MA Textile and Surface Design project Responsive Surfaces deals with the development of flexible surfaces, which are equipped with both sensory and reactive features. Exciting interactive prototypes were created, that imitate animal fur, both in its movement and appearance. Designer Paula van Brummelen has created tactile surfaces, which are covered with countless sensitive ‘hairs’. Exactly like in the natural process of homeostasis, how the body regulates its temperature, these artificial hairs also react to changes in their environment. Dependent on outside stimuli, they can be stroked flat, or stand on end like goosebumps, twitching like a living creature.

The result of the project is a smart textile, which was developed in the E-Lab technology workshop of Berlin Weissensee School of Art. Through the integration of electronic components (actuators, sensors and also control units) within a surface, the designer has created an entire flexible system which is able to react to stimulation from the surrounding environment, in the form of touch, with fluid movements in the surface structure.

A focal point of Responsive Surfaces is the merging of moving and movement-producing elements within flexible surfaces. Responsive Surfaces is based on a system of two textile layers arranged on top of one another, of which the upper layer can be moved horizontally due to the employment of shape-memory alloys.

The project’s second emphasis is on the design of the interactive feature of the surface. Here the application-related aspect is not the priority, instead the focus is on the relationship between humans and materials. Van Brummelen investigates whether surfaces can be given the ability to react to human touch, and how through manipulating the way the surface is designed, the behaviour of the user and the surface’s reactions change accordingly, to enable user and material to engage.