The research cluster smart³ investigates methodically and experimentally the potential of shape change materials. The devision “Experimental Materials Research” at the Department of Textile and Surface Design explores in various projects the potential of smart materials within a design context. The cluster smart³ at the weißensee academy of art berlin is directed by Prof. Dr. Zane Berzina and Prof. Christiane Sauer.

This research cluster is imbedded into the consortium smart³ - materials, solution, growth (, supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) during 2014 - 2021. Its goal is to promote the development of innovative products on the basis of smart materials. The interdisciplinary consortium consists of representatives from over 100 institutions and companies from across the industry, research, academia and cultural sector.

Smart materials, addressed in the research cluster, are materials that are capable of independently reacting to changes in their environment. Examples are thermal shape memory alloys, electroactive polymers, piezoceramics, and magnetic shape memory materials. Further information about the materials is available here: (

The research cluster has been active at the weißensee academy of art berlin since early 2014 with the following projects, with a total funding volume of 4.2 million Euros (as of 03.2017):

Current research project:

10/2016 - 31.01.2019

“Smart Materials Satellites”: This research and development (R&D) project aims at generating an active knowledge transfer on smart materials from the scientific and academic community to the broader public.

Project partners: Technische Sammlungen Dresden, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, SYN Stiftung Kunst, Design, Wissenschaft, Fraunhofer Institute IWU Dresden, weißensee academy of art berlin.

Research area weißensee: Development of a communication strategy for complex scientific topics through the employment of design methods. The core aspect of this project is the hands-on traveling open experimentation unit called “Mobile Laboratory” being tested in various contexts and venues. In addition, a number of exhibitions, conferences and workshops are planned in order to disseminate the research outcomes and to achieve a higher acceptance of smart materials by the creative industries sector in particular as well as by the broad public in general.

Finished research projects:

12/2016 - 05/2016

“Smart Tools for Smart Design”: This project aimed at bundling complex technical knowledge on smart materials and “translate” it into a concrete and tangible language, aimed especially at designers.

Project partners: Fraunhofer Institutes IWU and IKTS in Dresden, Fraunhofer Institute IAP in Potsdam-Golm, and weißensee academy of art berlin.

Research area weißensee: Development of a tool set for designers that allow to approach the otherwise highly technical knowledge about smart materials in a playful and experimental manner, thus transporting the - for designers - relevant content adequately. Further information available on the project website(

01/2014 - 11/2014

start smart“´”: the strategy phase of smart³ where a shared road map for the heterogeneous research consortium was determined.

Project partners: Fraunhofer-Institut IWU, Dresden, Fraunhofer-Institut IAP, Potsdam-Golm, Fraunhofer-Institut IKTS, Dresden, Kunsthochschule Burg Giebichenstein, Halle (Saale), TripleHelix Dialog, Dresden, Polysax e.V., Bautzen, Polymermat e.V., Technische Universität, Ilmenau, and weißensee academy of art berlin

Research area weißensee: development of concepts for products employing smart materials; a survey and case study analysis of already existing design-relevant projects with smart materials; and a concept for the public presentation of the entire smart³ - materials, solution, growth project outcomes, including a comprehensive exhibition. In addition, an education concept for aiding young designers wishing to embrace smart materials was developed.

Study and teaching:

The work done in the research projects continuously influences teaching and learning at the weißensee academy of art berlin in the shape of design projects, workshops, and symposia. The close cooperation with research partners, especially with the Fraunhofer Institutes, promotes the mutually beneficial exchange between science, design and real practical applications.


- SMARTSKIN Workshop, Veronika Aumann and Julia Wolf, 2016

- Semester project“Materiality and Sensory Research”, Prof. Dr. Zane Berzina, 2015

- Smart Materials – Hands-on Research, Julia Wolf, 2015

- Semester project CHANGE, Prof. Christiane Sauer, 2014

Publications (selection)

  • domus 018 “Die Stadt und der Mensch”

    Chamäleon-Membran” and “Solar Curtain” in the article “Das Material denkt mit” by Dr. Sascha Peters, issue 018 March/April 2016
  • Detail, Zeitschrift für Architektur, online on July 25, 2016. Article “Chamäleon Membran - Form Follows Environment”

  • Technology Review, July 2015, “Chamäleon Membran” as part of the focus on futurist materials

  • Newspaper of the Hannover Fair, “Solar Curtain” appeared in Research & Technology on April 16, 2015

Exhibitions and awards (selection)

09/2016 – 01/2017:

+ ultra, gestaltung schafft wissen. Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin.

exhibited are “Smart Tools for Smart Design” and “Responsive Surfaces” by Paula van Brummelen which lays a basis for an upcoming R&D project “Sound Adapt”.

October 2016

Designer’s Open Leipzig, Green Product Award (link zu

exhibited was “Chamäleon Membran” by Madlen Deniz


Hannover Messe 2016, booth of the Fraunhofer Institute IWU Dresden

shown was “Solar Curtain” by Bára Finnsdóttir

“Solar Curtain” – First Place, Fraunhofer Ideen Wettbewerb 2016 for “Solar Curtain”, adaptive textile sun protection for the façade, designed by Bára Finnsdottir. Realized as part of the design project CHANGE, further development of the demonstrator with the Fraunhofer IWU Dresden, 2015.

10. 2014

“Smart Office Materials - Innovation of Interior” Orgatec Fair, Cologne

presentation of “Chamäleon Membran” by Madlen Deniz

The Department of Textile and Surface Design’s information brochure on its experimental material research is available here ( The brochure provides a broad overview of selected student projects and research work that took place over recent years at the Department of Textile and Surface Design, weißensee academy of arts berlin.