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