A product design student at the Royal College of Art has created a prototypes for a building material that shape shifts when it rains. The water-reacting laminate opens when it's sunny and closes when it rains. It was inspired by a similar mechanism found in pinecones.

Chao Chen designed the material to function in three ways.

It allows laminated tiles to open on sunny days but stack on top of each other when exposed to water, making it the perfect material for a gazebo or shelter in an outdoor garden or public park.

It is "color-revealing" as the tiles curl inward into various shapes when they become wet to reveal a colored surface underneath, allowing architectural surfaces to gradually transform into a bright pattern when it rains.

 The third iteration of the project involves just a small strip of the material with one side colored red, the other blue. The strip is place in the soil of houseplants to illustrate whether the soil is moist or in need of water.

Chen's designs are still prototypes and far from reaching the market but in the meantime, you can check out what he's working on here.

Cover image: Chao Chen