Project type: Innovation

Inventor: Ms Ana Gatóo, Architecture
Partners: Prof Michael Ramage, Department of Architecture, Ron Bakker, PLP Architecture, & Charles Boulton, Engineering
Mentor: Elena de Orbe, i-Teams alumni

The inventor has focused her research activities on questions of sustainable and participatory design that are developed through working directly with affected communities. She has worked extensively on the problem of delivering affordable housing while still giving residents some control and autonomy over their living spaces.

The idea of developing flexible partitions centres on enabling people to reconfigure their living spaces easily and cheaply as their needs change over time. Examples include having different needs for rooms when residents have children or need a space for home working, or indeed as the children grow older and have different needs.

For partitions to improve people’s quality of life they need to be robust and sound-proof, delivering real privacy. The inventor has worked with timber and has developed specific timber patterns that create timber sheets that can be curved and folded and reconfigured multiple times.

An example of her work was exhibited at the London Design Biennale 2021, which was a pavilion made of 6mm plywood which can be folded and flat-packed.

The partitions have been prototyped at a small scale so far, and have been designed to be easy to fabricate and affordable. They can be made from plywood, giving robustness and relatively low cost when compared to other solutions such as building or removing timber or brick walls. A full-scale prototype is planned for early next year.

The role of the i-Team is to investigate the potential for this solution, both in residential and commercial property, by identifying and interviewing relevant experts. Who are the key decision-makers for the installation of such partitions? Could they be incorporated into new buildings instead of traditional partition walls? Or is the market for adding them to existing buildings a better one? What are other possible aspects to explore?