Thursday, April 30, 2009

Folding Facades

The idea of a "folding facade" is not entirely new. Shuttered exteriors have traditionally been used in various locales for protection from the elements, from New Orleans to New England in the United States, and in most other parts of the globe. What separates the newfound use of a folding perimeter to the traditional use is extent and purpose.

[Carabanchel Housing | photo by Francisco Andeyro Garcia and Alejandro Garcia Gonzalez]

The Carabanchel Housing in Madrid, Spain by Foreign Office Architects strongly illustrates how the 20th-century shift to frame structures has made folding screens encompass the whole facade, as opposed to covering punched openings in load-bearing walls. This enables the character of the facade to be seen as ever-changing, as each occupant modifies their space to suit.

[Carabanchel Housing | photo by Francisco Andeyro Garcia and Alejandro Garcia Gonzalez]

In this design the folding facade is created from small bamboo rods in a metal frame. The architects originally chose perforated zinc, but the budget and contractor pointed towards bamboo, what turned out to be a difficult, time-consuming process, but one that yields a strong texture that exudes the handbuilt nature of the pieces.

[Carabanchel Housing | photo by Sergio Padura]

Both the Carabanchel Housing and the next two projects illustrate the primary function of folding facades today: modulating light, wind, and water. The bamboo screen filters, but the wood panels of House MM by Fernando Menis in Santa Cruz de Tenerife are a solid barrier between inside and outside.

[House MM | image source]

Equally solid is the folding facade of the Lohbach Residences in Innsbruck, Austria by Baumschlater & Eberle, where copper panels sit on slab projections. In each of these three projects, the folding facade is but one layer in front of the "real" facade which is back by a balcony or terrace (on the penthouse of House MM). This creates a space between inside and outside, a gradient space aided by the flexibility of the facades.

[Lohbach Residences | image source]

Where the residential buildings above preclude only one layer, Fabios Restaurant in Vienna by BEHF Architekten makes the facade almost completely disappear via a clever vertical folding of the glass storefront. (New Yorkers who don't wish to fly to Europe to experience such a thing can head to the Lower East Side and Spitzer's Corner.) Not only does the barrier become erased, it becomes a canopy, sheltering diners and passers-by on the sidewalk.

[Image description | image source]

While these projects illustrates some consistencies in using folding facades, the last design shows that there's other creative ways in using them. Here's hoping for more creating ways of exploiting their potential in the future.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Undulating Roof/Column

Undulating roofs are fairly common in contemporary architecture these days, at least for commissions with a budget that can accommodate one. But undulating roofs that incorporate the column structure into the undulations are less common, though certainly more interesting. The blurring of the boundaries between the two functions (protection from the elements and keeping the building standing), stemming from the continuity of the construction (if not the actual structural system), make for very appealing spatial wrappers.

[Nicolas G. Heyak Center in Tokyo, Japan by Shigeru Ban]

The top floor of Shigeru Ban's Nicolas G. Heyak Center (the home of Swatch Group Japan) in Tokyo's Ginza district features a woven lattice roof that foreshadows his Centre Pompidou Metz set to open next year. This smaller-scale version is less integral with the rest of the building than the European museum branch, but the complexity of the structure and the compelling space it creates make the trip to the top rewarding. The reflective flooring helps to emphasize the roof-column relationship, mirroring its appearance as a tree and its canopy or a twister dropping from a cloudy sky.

[Funeral Hall in Kagamigahara, Japan by Toyo Ito | image source]

Also in Japan (and both featured in issue 027 of The Plan) is Toyo Ito's Municipal Funeral Hall in Kakamigahara, Gifu. The remarkably thin layer of sprayed-on concrete covers the funerary functions behind a highly transparent wall that overlooks a pond. The slender columns, some falling within the buildings and others outside, blend into the smooth, white continuous surfaces above. Roof drains are incorporated into some of the columns, (secretly) illustrating the potential in such a design gesture.

[BMW Welt in Munich, Germany by Coop Himmelb(l)au | image source]

Not as subtle as the two examples above, and technically not an undulating roof/column synthesis, per se, is Coop Himmelb(l)au's much-published design for BMW Welt, the carmaker's delivery building in Munich. A super-scaled "column" appears to support the massive, solar-panelled roof, like all of its energy collected into one swirling point. The glass- and metal-clad "double cone" is an exhibition and event space, the "architectural and communicational origin of the building." This last snippet from BMW seems appropriate in the context of this post, as the architecture makes a statement by fusing roof and support, horizontal and vertical. It attests to the power of such a maneuver, and foreshadows more to come.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Folded Glass Facades

Glass in modernism was theorized as a material whose transparency dissolved the separation between inside and outside. In effect it was a material that disappeared by allowing light to pass through while blocking air, bugs, and most projectiles. Today glass is seen less simply. Instead its presence is explored via a number of procedures, from casting and bending to silkscreening and other surface enhancements. One aspect of this is the transformation of curtain walls from two-dimensional surfaces to three-dimensional, vertical terrains.

[Trutec Building in Seoul, Korea by Barkow Leibinger Architects | image source]

As the production of both architectural designs and construction elements (materials, systems, etc.) has evolved with computers, more complex and varied designs are possible. One example are folded glass facades, which take once-modular components of glass and steel and make them appear more malleable. Barkow Leibinger Architects' Trutec Building in Seoul, Korea synthesizes the modular and the folded by taking a regular rectangular grid and infilling the cells with a prismatic pattern of triangular and trapezoidal glass panes.

[Trutec Building in Seoul, Korea by Barkow Leibinger Architects | image source]

This combination of regular grid and prismatic cells comes across most clearly in the top image, with the highly reflective glass giving the alternating images of sky and built context. It creates an irregular but relatively consistent pattern across the main facade.

[Trutec Building in Seoul, Korea by Barkow Leibinger Architects | image source (PDF link)]

Unlike the Trutec's building "folds in miniature", Krueck + Sexton's design for the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago is a folded glass facade of the macro kind. These large-scale pleats also create difference in how the building is "read": where the Trutec's glass box in effect has a 3d pattern on its facade, the Spertus 's folds create the form of the building. Simply, these are extensions of the decorated shed and the duck, respectively, but within the language of contemporary glass facades.

[Spertus Institute in Chicago, Illinois by Krueck + Sexton Architects | image source]

The Spertus likewise uses a grid to regularize the facade, but this grid in its entirety is warped by the folds. Here the grid relates to the Michigan Avenue streetwall context, and then it consciously eschews it in favor of a contemporary take on what its neighbors are in essence: draped skins on structural frames. Where the masonry buildings nearby have depth from the materials, the Spertus folds its 2d surface into a depth the earlier buildings could not achieve.

[Spertus Institute in Chicago, Illinois by Krueck + Sexton Architects | image source]

Many more examples of folded glass facades can be found, but these two buildings illustrate two strands of that approach to curtain wall design, the micro and the macro

Monday, April 27, 2009

Angled Bays

It seems like New York firms have a thing for bay windows, but not the usual symmetrical bays prevalent in residential architecture. I'm talking about angled bays that project from facades asymmetrically to orient views and jazz up building exteriors.

The most well known recent example of this architectural element is the Switch Building in Manhattan's Lower East Side. The design by nARCHITECTS alternates these angled bays to give the building its name. A small building that would have most likely been overshadowed by Blue next door, the maneuver holds its own, while offering its occupants captured views up or down Suffolk Street. Bays typically provide seating space for residents, and these are no different. The projections give a public face to an intimate space of the domestic realm.

[photographs of Switch Building by Frank Oudeman | image source]

Further uptown, near Madison Square Park is M127 in NYC by SHoP Architects. The condo project is a renovation of seven floors of an existing building, with five floors added on top. Steel bay windows project from the brick facade on Madison Avenue, creating a distinction between old and new.

[M127 | image source]

As the developer's website points out, "The boxes pop from the street, and communicate from the inside, where a two-foot-deep ledge offers room to sit, look out, and engage the street."

[M127 | image source]

The below view clearly illustrates the benefits of the angled bay: the integral seating space created and the captured view down the street.

[M127 | image source]

Located far from New York but designed by local architects LOT-EK is Sanlitun North in Beijing, China. Working within a predetermined massing from the project's mixed-use masterplan (by Kengo Kuma), the architects were given a 3-meter (10-foot) zone of extension at the front and back of the mass, from which they extended "duct-like metal extrusions with glass fronts...functioning as entrance and display windows for the hi-end retail stores at the lower floors and as large bay windows for the offices located on the upper floors."

[Sanlitun North by LOT-EK | image source]

Set off against the blue metal mesh wrap, these angled bays are an extreme example of the architectural element. Their composition across the facade makes the bays appear abritrary, as if the relationship between outside expression and inside function does not jibe like the other two examples above. But with much more generous depth and height, these bays become literal rooms or room extensions, something completely different.

[photography by Shuhe Architectural Photography Studio | image source]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Undulating Brick Walls

A brick is a modular masonry unit, something that wouldn't appear to "want to be" composed into undulating surfaces. Of course this doesn't stop architects from trying, from using limitations as inspiration and opportunities for doing something new. The idea of creating curves from orthogonal materials is not new. Modern examples of undulating brick walls include such mid-century designs as Eero Saarinen's 1955 MIT Chapel, where fairly regular ins-and-outs create an embracing space for worship.

[MIT Chapel by Eero Saarinen | image source]

Similar forms were created by Uruguay's Eladio Dieste, an engineer who exploited a technique of reinforcing brick walls, an innovation that could be considered his own. The Church of Christ the Worker is a stunning examples of how Dieste engineering prowess led to sensually appealing forms, undulating in plan but also leaning in section, following the roof also undulating overhead. The image below shows how he revealed the thickness of these walls, showing how the bricks supported themselves in relatively thin sections, unlike the thick load-bearing masonry walls of the Monadnock Building and the like.

[Church of Christ the Worker by Eladio Dieste | image source]

Thanks to engineers like Dieste, and advances in computer drafting and manufacturing, architects are trying similar forms, but less regular and repetitious. An unbuilt 1999 project in Green Bay, Wisconsin by Office dA -- a firm that thrives on the unconventional composition of materials -- is a good example of this trend. Gaps in a rectangular shell give the impression of carvings in a brick mass. Up close the "truth" is revealed, that the wall is but a wrapper that is manipulated for effect.

[Witte Arts Building by Office dA | image source]

Erick van Egeraat's design for an art gallery in Cork, Ireland is a masonry execution of "blob" architecture, achieved via a thin-joint mortar system, in which bricks are glued together on a backing, more akin to precast systems than the conventional on-site stacking of bricks. Egeraat uses this technique as a sort of flourish in the Crawford Art Gallery's facade, a one-off design not dependent on structure like the earlier examples above. The subsequent implementation of undulating brick walls is more in keeping with Dieste's techniques than Egeraat's.

[Cork Gallery of Art by Erick van Egeraat | image source]

ROTO Architecture's design for a building at Prairie View A&M University in Texas recalls Dieste's expression of the wall's thickness, as well as SITE's series of 1970's Best Product showrooms which treated the brick facade like a thin veneer shed by the big box behind it. Prairie View's brick facade peels away to allow access to, and light to enter, the interior. This playful maneuver activates a long elevation otherwise punctuated by small, apparently random windows.

[Architecture and Art Building by ROTO Architects | image source]

Last is 290 Mulberry, a condo building now under construction in New York City. Designed by SHoP Architects, the facades are covered in a patterned brick that appears at once undulating and folded. The vertical joints in the rendering below make me believe that the construction is more akin to the precast Crawford Art Gallery than the other examples here. In design it recalls the mid-century designs of Saarinen and Dieste, where repetition is key; it is evident here, but in a more complex and decorative form. It creates a pattern, a texture that unfortunately recalls architecture's past, not its future.

[290 Mulberry by SHoP Architects | image source]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Porous Masonry Walls

Found in :

While masonry is often perceived as impenetrable, a suitable material for keeping out wind and rain, it is actually by nature porous, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the specific material and its treatment. Cavity walls, for example, are designed to shed any water that may weep its way through the outer brick and mortar facade. Brick is seen as a veneer that keeps out most air and water, but it is not the sole means of doing such.

Some architects exploit this inherent porosity of masonry -- be it brick, stone or concrete -- by designing walls that allow light, air and water to penetrate. The most famous examples are surely Frank Lloyd Wright's four Textile Block Houses in sunny California. Wright used horizontal and vertical steel reinforcing bars and concrete grout (instead of standard mortar) to create three-dimensional compositions of flat and textured custom blocks, the latter either open or with glass inserts. The 1923 Freeman House shows the wonderful effects of Wright's experimentation, namely making the "gutter-rat" (the architect's term for standard concrete blocks) appear lighter than it really was, ironically aided by the invisible strength and weight of steel.

[Frank Lloyd Wright's Freeman House photographed by Julius Schulman | image source]

A recent example that achieves a similar lightness is Peter Zumthor's Kolumba Diocesan Museum in Cologne, Germany, which opened in 2007. A band in the "brick coat" of the new building -- located directly over ruins of a gothic church -- illuminates this in-between space, what the architect calls a "memory landscape." The "filter walls" create beautiful lighting effects inside the space that is not burdened by requirements for conditioned air.

[Peter Zumthor's Kolumba | image source]

Another project without concerns for keeping out the elements is the Nazarí Wall Intervention in Granada, Spain. Antonio Jiménez Torrecillas's intervention fills a gap in the Nazarí Wall, caused by a 19th-century earthquake. The wall allows passage between its two layers, in which light dapples through the random openings in the stacking of granite blocks.

[Antonio Jiménez Torrecillas's Nazarí Wall Intervention | image source]

Kengo Kuma's earlier Stone Museum from 2000 in Nasu, Japan creates a series of pavilions created from stacked stones, quarried from the same stone as the existing buildings on the site. Unlike the wall in Granada, here the openings are composed in regular patterns. Glass infill in portions gives a colored glow to the narrow slots during the day and at night.

[Kengo Kuma's Stone Museum | image source]

Last is the award-winning design for the offices for Dehli, India's South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC) by Anagram Architects. While this is the only image I've encountered for the project, it tells volumes. Openings in the brick wall are achieved not be leaving gaps in the wall (like the three projects before) but by the rotation of the bricks in plan. As the brick moves past a certain angle, the gap between it and its neighbor becomes too large for mortar, and it therefore becomes an opening; the bricks above and below span the opposite direction to make the maneuver structurally sound. Regular rectangular-sized openings are created by the architects' handling of the brick, but the variable coursing of the brick up the wall means the texture of the wall appears undulating, as if the wall is billowing as it rises. It's a beautiful example of what can occur when the architect allows the brick to lead the way, letting the simple form of the modular unit be a guide for more complex patterns, textures and openings.

[Anagram Architects' South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre | image source]

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hairy Facades

Found in :

Thatching is traditionally used as a roofing material, where reeds, straw or some other vegetable material is used for the outer roof covering, usually held in place with stones, ropes or poles, and interspersed with layers of mud. One thinks of both the British Isles and tropical regions, a testament to the versatility of the technique and the abundance of the materials in various contexts. Today the use of thatching is departing from its traditional form, being used as roofs but also walls, what I'm calling hairy facades.

[Reed thatch | image source]

One example that starts retains the roof-only aspect of traditional thatching, but scales it up so it blurs the typical distinction between roof and wall, is a new building at Plaswijckpark in Rotterdam by Drost + van Veen architecten. The oversized roof appears to float above the glass box below, unlike traditional applications in northern climes where the roof and (usually stucco) walls or more closely integrated.

[Plaswijckpark by Drost + van Veen architecten | image source]

Another project by the same architects, housing in Blaricum, also in the Netherlands, takes this blurring of roof and wall via thatching even further. Here the thatch covers all but the ground floor, like a cap of dried vegetation is placed atop the building and openings are cut for windows. Here the technique and material are used for sculptural effect, a bit strange but appealing.

[Blaricummermeent by Drost + van Veen architecten | image source]

A built example of a hairy facade is the Laren House in the Dutch town of the same name, by Monk Architecten. Actually compared to a hare in the recent book Inspired by Nature: Animals, the design utilizes thatch on the walls and standing seam metal for the roof, though the two surfaces are seamlessly integrated in an asymmetrical vaulting from one side to another.

[Laren House by Monk Architecten | image source]

Here one can touch the hairy facade, the thatching that is traditionally found overhead. The foreground of the photograph below illustrates the aesthetic potential of using thatch on walls, though one must ask, can another material achieve such effects?

[Laren House by Monk Architecten | image source]

My first response would be straw bale, which is finding a renewed interest with sustainable architecture today. But with poor performance as an exterior material (usually it is covered by lath and stucco), straw bale is found behind polycarbonate panels, in designs like Felix Jerusalem's Stroh Haus.

[Somis Hay Barn by SPF:architects | image source]

One project that is able to exploit the potential of straw bale as an exterior, hairy facade is SPF:architects' Somis Hay Barn in Somis, California. Here the straw bale is stored on the exterior until it is used as feed, therefore it is able to be left exposed. Color variations throughout the year, as well as the tetris-like stacking, allows for an ever-changing appearance.

The above examples illustrate what I'm calling hairy facades, an architectural element of sorts that finds traditional materials in atypical applications. More materials may be found achieving similar ends in the future, where a more sensual and rustic appearance trumps over the now prevalent slick and polished.

Projecto de Siza Vieira Aprovado



Os trabalhos de demolição nos terraços do Carmo, que serão convertidos em miradouro e esplanada, começam dentro um ou dois meses, afirmou ontem o vereador do Urbanismo na Câmara de Lisboa, Manuel Salgado (PS).

Destak/Lusa |

A autarquia aprovou hoje por unanimidade o projecto de arquitectura de Siza Vieira para ligar o pátio B do Chiado ao Largo do Carmo e aos terraços do quartel da GNR.

“Muito em breve, dentro de um ou dois meses, vão iniciar-se as demolições nos terraços do Carmo”, disse Manuel Salgado na conferência de imprensa que se seguiu à reunião do executivo municipal.

O autarca escusou-se a avançar a data de conclusão das obras, que poderá ser condicionada pelas descobertas arqueológicas que se forem somando às já detectadas e que Manuel Salgado garantiu serem “integradas no projecto”.

O projecto prevê a ligação do Chiado ao Carmo por um “sistema de escadas e rampas” e pelo elevador do antigo edifício Leonel, que já existe mas não funciona.

Na prática, este projecto é a última peça do plano de recuperação do Chiado após o incêndio, ao qual foi acrescentado o uso público dos terraços do quartel do Carmo.

Os terraços estão ocupados com “barracões” que servem de tipografia à GNR e que, no âmbito de um protocolo entre aquela força de segurança e a autarquia, vão ser desactivados, com a transferência do serviço.

O projecto foi eleito pelo executivo camarário como uma das intervenções prioritárias da revitalização da Baixa Chiado,para a criação do Museu da Moda e do Design e do Museu do Banco de Portugal e do acesso ao Castelo pelo mercado do Chão do Loureiro.

A vereadora social-democrata Margarida Saavedra considerou que se trata de “um projecto de autor, com a coerência que o arquitecto Siza Vieira lhe imprimiu”.

“É uma peça muito interessante e importante para Lisboa”, afirmou, referindo a importância de um mesmo arquitecto terminar o projecto que iniciou.

A vereadora do movimento Cidadãos por Lisboa Helena Roseta esclareceu que Siza Vieira decidiu preservar uma descoberta arqueológica junto à porta Sul do Convento e que foi isso que motivou o parecer negativo da Associação dos Arqueólogos, que tutela o Museu do Carmo.

Segundo Helena Roseta, a associação considera que a solução encontrada, que vai descer à quota original, inibe as cargas e descargas através daquela porta.

“Estamos perante uma solução de autor, que respeitamos. Tem os pareceres favoráveis de todas a entidades, desde os bombeiros ao Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico”, afirmou.

O vereador comunista Ruben de Carvalho afirmou que recuperar os terraços é “evidentemente positivo” e saudou a abertura para integrar os achados arqueológicos.

“Há abertura dos arquitectos para adaptar o projecto ao que possa acontecer ao nível de ruínas e achados arqueológicos”, afirmou.

O vereador José Sá Fernandes considerou “excelente” a aprovação do projecto, sublinhado que há vários anos reivindicava a fruição pública daqueles terraços.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

O que aprendi com a arquitectura?

Transmissão online da conferência: "O que aprendi com a arquitectura? - Siza Vieira"

Friday, April 17, 2009

18 de Abril de 2009 - DIA INTERNACIONAL DOS MONUMENTOS E SÍTIOS: O Património e a Ciência!


Conferência de abertura na Universidade de Coimbra, Auditório da Faculdade de Direito



Na organização das celebrações nacionais, o ICOMOS-Portugal e a Universidade de Coimbra, em colaboração com o IGESPAR e a PP-CULT, iniciam a abertura deste dia com uma conferência em Coimbra, de título


O Património como Oportunidade e Desígnio: Ciência, Sociedade e Cultura!


a realizar no Auditório da Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de Coimbra, dia 18 de Abril a partir das 9:30.

Trata-se de uma organização da Universidade de Coimbra, do IGESPAR, do ICOMOS e da PPCULT, que conta com o alto patrocínio do Senhor Presidente da República, com o apoio do Ministério da Cultura e da Comissão Nacional da UNESCO.

O Magnífico Reitor da Universidade de Coimbra e o Senhor Ministro da Cultura abrirão o evento e, entre os conferencistas, encontram-se grandes cientistas e professores, nomes de vulto da cultura portuguesa, tais como: Vitor Serrão, Paulo Peixoto, Alexandre Alves Costa, Jose Manuel Pureza, Cláudio Torres, Guilherme Oliveira Martins, Maria Calado, Carlos Fiolhais, Jorge Paiva, Paulo Gama da Mota e Carlos Fortuna (entre outros).


O acesso a esta conferência é livre!


Informações sobre outros (dezenas de) eventos deste dia podem encontrar-se em: