Yomna Saad ElGhazi
Faculty Of Engineering, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt

Fig.1.33: James Law’s High Tech ‘Cybertecture Egg’ for Mumbai, The building is due for completion by the end of 2010.

As a principle element of architecture, technology has allowed for the wall to become an increasingly dynamic component of the built environment. The traditional connotations and objectives related to the wall are being redefined: static becomes fluid, opaque becomes transparent, barrier becomes filter and boundary becomes borderless.

Fig. 2.23: Universal Architecture Studio, Hua Li

Combining smart materials, intelligent systems, engineering, and art can create a component that does not just support and define but significantly enhances the architectural space. This study focuses on the design of the building membrane where technology and performance are addressed through a broader cultural position, establishing a continual dialogue between the surface, its function and its larger human context.

Fig. 2.34: a) External Views of the Selfridges Department Store, Birmingham, England, 2003, External Views, b) Details for the aluminum disks (Moussavi & Kubo, 2006)

The emergence of the new ‘Information Age’ has suggested ‘Building Skins’ which are more intelligent and interactive where the “Intelligent Facade” is seen as a central element in the evolution of building form to provide environmental control and comfort.

Fig. 2.35: The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, by Norman Foster.

The thesis describes the background of bioclimatic architecture and goes on to give an outline of the subject of intelligent skins for buildings redefining the intelligent architecture in the light of available technology.

Fig. 2.44: a) The de Young Museum of Art, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, b) Customembossed and perforated panels of the facade, c) The two patterns are superimposed. Due to the misalignment of the two patterns, the perforations do not cancel out the embossings. (Moussavi & Kubo, 2006)

Intelligent building skins are envelopes for the information age that strives to combine the best use of information with the best use of resources showing us the way to deliver the buildings that we will need to address the exciting challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

Fig. 5.2: a) BIX electronic skin, b) The Arab Institute façade.

The building facade marks the transition between outside and inside, between the building and the urban space. They are not limited to the actual space they occupy as part of the entire structure, but also influence the space in and around the building. A facade is the key element when observing a building from the exterior and has impact on the interior.

Fig. 5.4: The Starlight Theater. (Kronenburg, 2007)

View, lighting, ventilation, user comfort, some building services and possibly loadbearing are all tasks the facade may need to address. Building facade plays an especially important role. First and foremost it provides protection and privacy. But its aesthetic and cultural function is just as important. When seen in context, they characterize the face of a city or town.

Fig. 5.5: The “expanding geodesic dome” designed by Hoberman Associates.

The facade gives a scale to the entire space around it. Urban space is defined by the building facade, the neighboring building facades, the streetscape, and the environment. No wonder that it draws more attention than any other building component.

Fig. 5.8: Alcoy Community Hall. (Fotiadou, 2007)

Harmony should reign between form and function, inside and outside. Facades are an integral element of the entire building with direct relation to design, use, structure and building services. This has decisive impact on the entire design and construction process. A building skin is determined by its dual role: first as environmental screens and second, as a sociocultural public face of architecture.

Fig. 5.14: The Kinetic Responsive Skylights. (Fox, 2002)

It is only recently that surface has gained a new focus in design as a ground for display, communication and interaction that now requires re-appropriation of distinct technologies that form integral part of the surface formation. The interaction of the physical space and the data creates one of the most amazing arts of our time. A more integrative outlook to surface design and integration of digital or electronic technologies at material level is now beginning to be demonstrated in facade systems.

Fig. 5.16: The metallic surface is separated into small parts that are moved by pneumatic pistons that can that can push out or pull in to create a wide variety of shapes.

Fig. 5.20: The transformable membrane consists of flat triangular surface-tiles with embedded computation techniques to undergo shape transformation,

While conventional intelligent facades demonstrate low embodiment from occupants’ perspective, media facades lack real function. There are clear analogies to be drawn from media-facades that could inform the design conventions of intelligent facades. Undoubtedly there is a balance to be struck here, but until the full possibilities of interactive architecture are clear we may not be able to decide where that balances lies.

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