Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Architect Juraj Viskic claims to have solved a “problem” that has haunted architects around the world — designing a building that moves.
For decades, Viskic has worked with Helsinki-based architects G+Gstudio , most recently on Viskic’s ‘Footprint Office’ in the Finnish capital.
To create the new building, Viskic enlisted G+Gstudio’s technical director, Oktako Bahlman, to create a mechanical system that “walks” alongside its tenants as the floors are raised and lowered.
“I felt like we had a really hard task to solve,” Viskic told CNN Style in a recent interview at his New York studio. “It was not because it was difficult. It was because people have seen buildings move in movies and I always wanted to see my building move.”
“I wanted to make things move so easily and gently that the student or tourist would feel that they were not moving at all,” Viskic added.
Viskic’s concept was based on the fact that any furniture or objects that might be placed on the floor — or walls — in a building could be moved up or down, as the floors were raised and lowered.
The idea was that while an entire floor might move only around five percent of the time, these tiny movements could have a real impact on people walking around the building.
Viskic and Bahlman developed their idea from below. As students in the 1990s, they spent many hours working on working the system of four moving walls into a building.
In 2004, Viskic successfully completed G+Gstudio’s ‘Fight Chair’ at its Helsinki studios using a similar system.
Yet the concept of moving floors was brought to the international stage when Berlin-based Atelier Sotheby successfully completed its ‘Slide’ building in 2017, an apartment complex that steps away into a void.
Viskic worked with the G+Gstudio team, who included the designers Antti Aalto and Riku Aalto, to come up with a real life version of the concept.
The new ‘Footprint Office’ — located in Shanghai — was designed for German-Swiss insurance company Allianz.
Bahlman’s technical team went on to come up with a great deal of digital simulation work, explaining how to get different types of floors to move together, and in what way. The digital work also increased efficiency, as the team took into account the typical occupancy levels within the building, Viskic says.
One system calculated that between 1,650 and 1,900 would be required for the floor to maintain its own integrity. Because the floors were raised and lowered in such a way, that figure was lowered to a minimum, as there were no spaces to fill in.
Much of the planning work was done on the head of the building, with three levels. So those floors could be raised and lowered, unlike the flat floors of an ordinary office building.
“One building has entirely different needs than another building,” Viskic explained.
The flooring system was designed to allow floors to move “so gradually that you couldn’t really feel the floor moving, almost like it’s done to a perfectly controlled degree” Viskic added.
The floor design was based on a mixture of wet and dry granite, creating a mix that was smooth and durable. And it was positioned on top of two rubber counterweights that can be moved.
Some of the floors were placed on massive metal towers to make them move — for instance, in the main office area. “All that’s based on feedback from our clients,” Viskic said.
Since the office move, there have been further attempts to use the system. One application of the system is to allow dogs to walk on the concrete and grass of the office building as they visit people when they work on weekends.
Viskic says he hopes to eventually make more large buildings move. “What we’ve managed so far is one tenth of the possibilities,” he said.
“My dream is to create many more buildings where floors can move,” he added.
To test the system out for the second ‘Footprint Office’ project, Viskic is in the process of placing new floors on an adjacent terrace to see how well they move and how they stand.