What makes us human after all? MODU’s research is grounded in three core values: indoor urbanism, second nature, and public floor.

 

Indoor Urbanism

Indoor urbanism envisions architecture with fewer barriers, creating socially and environmentally resilient places. Merging the opposing scales of the urban and the interior allows architectural borders to recede, making more accessible cities and fostering a sense of belonging. After all, buildings and their interiors are environments, too.







Second Nature


MODU’s definition of second nature sees architecture and nature as extensions of each other, reimagining the threshold where the inside ends and the outside begins. Architecture as a cultural discipline should be more adaptive to environmental forces. Climate adaptability mobilizes micro-climate design, creating dynamic atmospheres between the indoors and outdoors.






Public Floor

The public floor shifts emphasis away from our cities’ vertical character to highlight the horizontal city, where open interiors, sidewalks, and public spaces meet. Active, ephemeral, and dynamic, these public experiences are always changing. Urban and environmental data is used to map invisible borders that separate communities, revealing catalysts for inclusive urban experiences.



MODU conducts design-led research to develop innovative models of climate adaptation. Our research development leads to new forms of low energy architecture and cities.  

 

Self-Cooling Walls

In Houston’s hot climate, self-cooling concrete walls are cast with corrugation patterns that, when passed over by the wind, release solar heat more rapidly. More patterning is used for walls in direct sunlight to increase self-cooling.
The increased surface area of corrugations, along with the transpiration from abundant plants, create comfortable low-energy micro-climates.

We conducted tests using concrete panels heated in an oven and recorded with thermal imaging. Research showed different cooling rates based on each pattern, and a significant difference with a flat panel without corrugation. Passive design strategies improve outdoor comfort while creating a unique architectural identity.

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Indoor Terrace


New York City’s hot summers and cold winters demand a multi-season “weather room,” open during temperate seasons and enclosed otherwise. An indoor terrace creates a unique sensorial environment that changes with the seasons. The experience of being outdoors while inside requires careful integration of both low-energy passive and active technologies.

Large wall openings provide direct connections to nature in warm weather, but can be closed with “winter windows.” During cold weather, radiant heating in furniture provides warmth, which allows for extended winter use. In the summer, verdant plantings and misting systems lower the temperature for better indoor-outdoor living. 

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Field Guide to Indoor Urbanism

Global research of the threshold between indoors and outdoors, where interior and urban atmospheres intersect, has been conducted in many cities. From New York to Rome and from Tokyo to Sydney, forms of climate adaptation have been documented and studied. This research lends expertise to MODU’s projects at all scales.

The results of this research will be part of the book “Field Guide to Indoor Urbanism,” to be published by Hatje Cantz Verlag in 2022. Three scales—urban, architecture, and interior—highlight opportunities for social connectivity through the environment. The book illustrates multi-scalar and geographically diverse episodes while envisioning new forms of living in an age of extreme climate change.  

 

Horizontal City


Research of the horizontal city shifts emphasis from New York’s vertical identity to highlight its public floor. Experiences are translated from urban and environmental data into atmospheric drawings. Invisible boundaries reveal vast inequities of shade: higher-income neighborhoods have cooler micro-climates, with surface temperatures at times thirty degrees less than lower-income areas.

Mapping the city’s sidewalks and streets documents the seasonal shadows cast by permanent structures, like buildings and trees, and temporary ones, such as the private outdoor dining structures prompted by the pandemic. Highlighting these environmental boundaries underscores the importance of more accessible outdoor thermal comfort through indoor-outdoor experiences. 

Coral Footings

Cultural installations produce significant quantities of construction waste that goes into landfills. MODU’s installation projects are designed to be recycled or upcycled from the outset. In Miami, a steel structure was left unpainted for recycling, while concrete footings were donated for an artificial reef program.

The footings were cast with a network of holes for future marine life, as well as concrete textures specified for coral growth. After the project’s de-installation, footings were lowered to the seabed as part of extensive artificial reef construction. The structures show the opportunities of multi-species design thinking.


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