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First supervisor: Prof Koen Steemers; second supervisor: Minna Sunikka-Blank

Sam Aitkenhead


Research overview:

As technology companies enter the world of architecture, they bring with them a particular design ideology from the digital world: the reduction or removal of ‘friction’. These frictions are the moments that slow down or interrupt the user experience and, in the digital world, have generally been seen in a negative light; something to be designed out of services, products and now, buildings. This research investigates the less obvious impacts of the reduction of friction through design. What are the unintended consequences of making life too easy? Is there an environmental impact of outsourcing tasks we can do ourselves to products which require energy to produce and run? And what are the wellbeing implications of ‘Smart’ environments that are designed to adapt to us, rather than asking us to adapt to them? In this research, the implications of ‘friction-free' human interfaces are investigated primarily in the context of the Smart Home, a typology where technology and architecture is merging in a way that is redefining our relationship to them both. This research is supported by the ESRC.



Sam is an award-winning designer who originally trained in architecture at the Royal College of Art in London. He has more than 10 years’ experience working for leading global design and architecture studios, including on architecture projects for technology companies, an experience which became the inspiration for this research. He also teaches a module on materials and making at the University of Westminster, and has been a visiting critic at several architecture schools in the UK and abroad.