Ten creative facades that utilize new materials, new technology and new ideas to reshape architecture
A staple of architecture for centuries, the facade has a long history as a decorative element of both private homes and public buildings. Facades play a clear decorative role, with new facades frequently being used to “dress up” existing houses, but they can also contribute to the energy efficiency of a building. As energy becomes a greater concern, the facade has adapted. Technology also changed the facade. Between modern technology and modern environmental concerns, architects are looking more at facades for their potential impact on the internal and external environment of the building and beyond. Below are twelve examples that take the facade from decoration to innovation.
South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) by WOODS BAGOT
The SAHMRI is located in Adelaide, Australia. Inspired by pine cones, the external facade is almost a living organism in its own right. It is a responsive facade, meaning it adapts to its environment by opening and closing as needed and offers natural cooling without entirely eliminating natural light.
MuCEM by Rudy Ricciotti
Named our favorite building of 2013, the MuCEM also boasts are particularly innovative facade. French architect Rudy Ricciotti took almost ten years to perfect the technology needed to create the delicate concrete latticework that adorns the museum in Marseille, and over 400 individual panels were used in its construction.
Ánimo Leadership Charter High School by Brooks + Scarpa
Solar panels are no longer a surprising element of architecture, but the use of solar panels on a charter high school in California is not something seen everyday. Taking advantage of the Los Angeles sunshine, the American firm Brooks + Scarpa clad the high school with 650 solar panels to provide 75% of the school’s total energy requirements.
RMIT Design Hub by Sean Godsell Architects
For the RMIT Design Hub in Melbourne, Australia, the architects at Australian firm Sean Godsell designed a living ‘skin’ that would adapt sustainable elements to an aesthetically pleasing design. Made from steel and glass, the facade integrates evaporation cooling and fresh air intakes that improve the internal air quality and reduce operations costs, while the sandblasted glass discs are actually responsive shading devices that rotate within steel rings to provide protection from excessive sunlight.
Hospital Manuel Gea Gonzalez by Elegant Embellishments
Both ornamental and functional, the facade of Hospital Manuel Gea Gonzalez in Mexico City actually eats pollution. Designed by the Berlin-based firm Elegant Embellishments, the facade’s coating of titanium dioxide breaks down pollutants into calcium nitrate, carbon dioxide and water – all without breaking down the coating itself.
Wyckhoff Exchange by Andre Kikoski Architect
The Wyckhoff Exchange is located in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Its facade is made from two layers of laser-cut steel panels with an oxidized corten outerwall. Serving two functions, it becomes a protective gate for the stores when closed and transforms into a decorative awning when open.
BIQ House by ARUP
While it may not look like much, the BIQ House by German engineering firm ARUP has one of the most innovative bio-adaptive facades to date. Located in Hamburg, Germany, the building uses live microalgae in glass louvers to create utilizable biogas. The algae are fed liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide through a water circuit before being harvested as a thick pulp that is fermented to create biogas. The facade also absorbs heat that powers the building’s water tanks and fuels the algae growth while providing naturally cooling shade for the occupants.
SunnyHills cake shop by Kengo Kuma
Appreciable for its singular appearance and Kengo Kuma’s signature use of wood, the facade of the SunnyHills cake shop in Tokyo was constructed much like a bamboo basket. Employing a traditional Japanese joint system called “Jiigoku-Gumi” that involves no nails or glue, 5000 meters of wooden strips were used to create an impressive 3D muntin grid that surrounds the building.
ArboSkin Pavilion by ITKE
Developed by students and professors at Stuttgart University’s ITKE (Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design), the unique spiky facade of the pavilion is actually made from a bioplastic engineered specifically for the construction industry. The bioplastic is made from 90% renewable materials, including starches, cellulose and other biopolymers, and offers an alternative to plastic derived from oil and natural gas. Even better, any incidental waste materials from the product can be fed back into the production process.
Gas Receiving Station by Studio Marco Vermeulen
Located in Dinteloord, the Netherlands, Studio Marco Vermeulen’s Gas Receiving Station boasts a bio-based facade. Made from Nabasco, a composite of bio resin and hemp fiber produced by NPSP Composites, this particular structure will be an interesting experiment to keep an eye on.