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Multi-Material Integrated Facade

Project Type: Speculative Building Research

Project Year: 2023

Project Team: Kostas Grigoriadis, Samuel Esses (Superficium Studio)


Designed for a hot summer climate, the facade segment studied has an orientation aligned with the midday sun at summer solstice. The design is based on a self-shading global form, which is then imported into a structural analysis software. Support points, vertical dead loads, and horizontal wind loads were applied to the model for analyses. Using topology optimisation, the areas experiencing high stress are defined. A continuous, relief lattice is then generated on those regions, densifying, and thickening up in highly loaded areas, and gradually reducing to minimum depth in sparsely latticed neutral zones. This lattice is effectively not added on, but a 2.5D imprint onto the plastic envelope.

Cavities are then carved out within the skin, with the net¬work of voids aligned with the translucent structural lattice to avoid interfering with views out from transparent facade regions. These form ventilation ducts, merging structure, skin, and services into one. This is an approach reminiscent of projects like TWA’s Huaxi Urban Centre Tower, which was designed to hybridise "mechanical systems with other build¬ing systems in a way that crosswires traditional hierarchies and produces synergetic forms.” The next “layer” in this build up is derived from solar radiation studies of the solstice sun at early morning and late after¬noon. These studies inform the positioning of an opaque layer embedded within the thickness of the skin to eliminate overheating. A third layer of electricity-conducting plastic "veins" convert the cabling services that are typically hid¬den away within the ceilings of a building into an architec¬tural feature. Forming part of the facade, this layer is also aligned with the translucent lattice to avoid visual obstruc¬tions. A fourth layer of subtle colouring revealing the stress load concentrations on the lattice became yet another archi¬tectural feature.

All these functionalities are integrated into the architectural envelope as changes in translucency, thickness, or colour of the same material, plastic. Although described as a facade, this envelope together with the structural thickenings, air voids, shading pattern, electrical veining, and colouration, all merge and migrate into the horizontal floor plane, forming one continuous topology. There are no screws, bolts, parts, pieces, connection details, smart joints, and tectonics, but just one 3D print.

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