Home is where the smart is

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am

The moving stairs and shifting walls of Harry Potter's Hogwarts school may soon be coming to a living room near you.

The iPad (below), dubbed the world's most intelligent apartment tower, is taking shape in Dubai, mixing technology, architecture, interior design and software. Although some of its features seem a bit Big Brother-ish (the bathroom gives you a health check), there are fun elements to this living building. Don't like the view? Simply change it to another from more than 60 locations around the world. Fancy watching movies while taking a dip? Welcome to digital water.

But it's the moving rooms that truly reveal the design possibilities. Living and dining rooms that rotate to give a continuous view over the city and mechanical walls that disappear on command demonstrate how the integration of technology can remove the boundaries of traditional housing.

The iPad is the brainchild of Hong Kong cyber-tect James Law, who designed it for Omniyat Properties, the development arm of UAE-headquartered Almasa Holdings. Costing US$150 million, its 231 intelligent apartments are due for completion in late 2009.

The building will stand alongside innovative designs by the likes of Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid, whose mega-projects are reshaping the Dubai skyline. Known for their technical sophistication, these buildings include what will be the world's tallest tower, the 160-floor, 700-metre high Burj Dubai.

An architect and self-confessed gadget freak, Law coined the term cyber-tecture to symbolise the integration of technology with architecture.

Law says the iPad reflects how people will live in the 21st century. 'It demonstrates how technology will impact on our lives and how a revolutionary automated lifestyle will connect us to the world. [The iPad] is full of wonderful possibilities where the boundaries of your home are unlimited through the integration of technology.'

The building features iReality, a virtual-projection system linking apartments in real time to different locations around the world. 'The view from your apartment can be linked to a view of New York's skyline,' Law says. 'iReality makes physical confines disappear, and your home is seemingly of any size and in any location in the world.'

Technologies built into the bathroom can check your weight, blood pressure and temperature. 'This information can be stored and tracked to help you maintain a healthy life,' Law says.

The home operates according to commands the occupants programme into an intuitive touch screen system called iToggle. Lighting colours, mood or music can all be changed on a whim through the iAmbience function. If you're away from home, the life-sized, online streaming iFamily puts you virtually back in your living room so you can interact with your family.

'You can customise the look of your home to give it a personal feel,' says Law. You no longer need to buy art: the iPad has a server to which residents can subscribe and pick out virtual art for their apartments. Waterproof touch screens in the jacuzzi allow users to watch movies and news while taking a dip. Swimming underwater will no longer be boring, because iUnder-water Concert plays music. And deck-chairs with built-in ultrasonic speakers won't disturb others.

Law says intelligent homes will gain acceptance. 'The direction of future architecture isn't just about hard space, but what those spaces can do for us intellectually,' he says. 'Stereotypes will change. We'll no longer have a living room, kitchen or bedroom, but a living space, cooking space and sleeping space.'