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HEX-SYS is a reconfigurable and reusable building system designed by OPEN. It is our reaction to the unique Chinese phenomenon in the building frenzy of the recent decades: the production of a vast amount of flamboyant but short-lived buildings. This modular building system can easily adapt to many different functions, and can be disassembled and reused, thus extending a building’s life cycle and saving a significant amount of resources. Because it is modular and prefabricated, it can be built much faster than traditional buildings. This system is part of OPEN’s continuous exploration of mass-customization and the ultimate potential of building sustainably.

Our design for this prototype was inspired both by the ancient Chinese wooden building system, in which structures can be taken apart and rebuilt elsewhere with little damage, and by Le Corbusier's Pavilion for Zurich, which summarized his lifelong research on modular building systems. It comprises a series of hexagonal cells with architectural, structural, and mechanical systems all synthesized within the same geometrical rules. The composition of the cells can be rearranged according to different site and programmatic needs.

The basic building cell is a hexagon module of about 40 square meters, with an inverted umbrella roof structure standing atop a single pipe column that double functions as the rain flue. Rainwater is collected and used for landscape irrigation. There are three basic types of cells—indoor-open, indoor-closed, and outdoor-open—to accommodate different functional needs. A “missing” hexagon in a cluster of cells forms an internal Zen garden, much like the void in Chinese paintings. The connection details of the building components are all designed to be reversible, with no welding or glue allowed.

OPEN holds the design patent for this building system. The first realized prototype of HEX-SYS is an exhibition center in Guangzhou, China, next to the city’s new train station. It contains exhibition areas, a multimedia room, a lounge, offices, and a café. While this building demonstrates one possible application of HEX-SYS, the system can be adapted to many other suitable functions as well.

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