The term “Flexibility” is defined as the unrestricted free range of motion, any feature or a vibe that is pliable and susceptible to change. The concept of flexibility in the field of architecture was proposed in contradiction to ‘tight-fit-functionalism’. 

Design flexibility allows the building to evolve as users need change. Its application spans between freedom of choice and expression and the reality of totally controlled spaces. In the case of affordable housing projects, the massing is done in such a way that it serves mere functionality. Here, the concept of personalization does not take a stand. In one of the projects, Alejandro Aravena dealt with one such project and emphasized incremental housing. According to him building a half house is better than building a complete house.

What does 'Flexibility' refer to in architecture and its relevance - Sheet1

In architecture, flexibility is malleable, movable, and multipurpose. It is further classified into movable partitions, multi-use spaces such as open-plan offices and high-capacity service voids, and the room’s ability to expand. The concept of flexibility and design allows to adapt rather than stagnate, it allows to transform over restrict, it allows interaction over inhibits. Very often flexibility is measured as the amount of change that occurs and the degree of permanence of that particular change. 

At present time, a designer can use his own wit and instincts to design a space with a flexible approach or she might take the help of innovative technology to do the same. However, a question might arise that is technology controlling the user or a designer’s design asked for enhanced technology. Using the right thing at the right place calls for an experienced decision, which can be done only by a thoughtful designer.

Any built environment should act as a living organism that involves special flexibility, functional flexibility, design flexibility, and material flexibility. The term flexibility is devoted to space-time and technology as a whole. In today’s time, this has become an integral part of planning which is seen as a progressive approach. The flexibility of a building its elements and its design can allow it to be used efficiently despite changes in operational requirements whereas inflexible buildings might become obsolete. As a whole, design flexibility allows the user to fidget with time.

The three phases of flexibility concerning architecture are as follows:

1. Adaptability

It is defined as the capacity of a building to support multiple functions without altering architecture itself.

For example; the repositioning of furniture, multifunctional spaces et cetera does not require any permanent change in this space.

2. Transformability

This allows interior and exterior space to be changed without any need for new construction. This also involves mobility and responsiveness of the space.

For example; fabricated structures, temporary accommodation, retail units. Also, various response structures such as floating building’s retractable roofs fall under this category.

What does 'Flexibility' refer to in architecture and its relevance - Sheet2

3. Convertibility

It deals with changing functions along with some construction. This requires some permanent change.                                               

In practicing architecture, the advent of flexibility and design must be foreseen in the planning stage itself. Feasibility, research, later projections, and long-term plans must be pre-thought and incorporated in the design itself. Once the objectives of flexibility Unknown the design team can review and propose a plan that fits in the budget. Thus, making it sustainable and cost-effective.

Then arises a concern about flexibility during the design-construction process. Some fast-track projects might require starting the construction even before the entire design has been resolved. Thus, providing some amount of flexibility in the early stages of design might allow flexible possibilities for later. For example; foundations are constructed way before the design. Here, if the foundations are bigger than needed then in the future, they can be used to house larger loads.

What does 'Flexibility' refer to in architecture and its relevance - Sheet3

The logical and thoughtful concept of spurring the sharing economy is evidently seen now even in the construction world of design and architecture. Creating multi-functional spaces introduces both challenges and exciting new approaches towards the built environment. Hyper consumerism has disintegrated and collaborative consumption has taken the front seat.

Architecture has the capability to be as flexible as a naturally built environment must be able to change according to the emerging needs of the social environment. Another major advantage of flexibility is that it allows keeping the built environment relevant and useful until eternity. Moreover, it also reduces the constant need for redesigning.

Before incorporating flexibility, it must be scanned through both the lenses of conceptual point of view and practical point of view. Currently popular in residential spaces but flexible design approaches can also be applicable promisingly in the commercial arena. As we all know that change is the only constant and with the changing world the user needs to evolve at a faster pace. 

As designers, we need to face these development demands. Adopting this agile approach, we can truly create innovative and considerable spaces with fundamental practicality along with An X factor.



Priyanshi Hiran is a perfectionist who has a confident and persuasive personality. She is an Architecture student currently in 4th Year of B.Arch. Time Management is the key to her work routine that helps her to achieve a balanced lifestyle.