T5a – Responsive Facades

Through my investigative report I have started looking at examples of responsive facades in contemporary architecture. A responsive facade is one that alters to a given stimulus. The facade usually responds in order to control the internal climate of the building, although could be for aesthetic purposes too. It would be more beneficial to have some effect on the building rather than appearance so that the extra cost and material is justified. The stimulus could be daylight levels, internal/external temperature or even time of day. A good precedent for responsive facades is the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi by Aedas.


Inspired by a mashrabiya (a traditional Islamic lattice shading device), the shading system on this pair of towers was developed using parametric design for the geometry of the moving triangular facade panels which open and close in response to sun exposure and the changing incidence angle of the sun throughout the year.

The screen operates as a curtain wall, sitting two meters outside the buildings’ exterior on an independent frame. Each triangle is coated with fibreglass and programmed to respond to the movement of the sun as a way to reduce solar gain and glare. In the evening, all the screens close.

The building responds to the external stimulus of UV light: as the sun rises, the shading components along the east side of the building remain closed, while open on the remainder of the building. As the sun moves around the building throughout the day, the dynamic facade responds with components opening/closing accordingly in order to shade the glazing.

To better understand the mechanism and how the facade components work I decided to model them:

This simple folding mechanism is very effective in shading the glazed building, this is particular important due to the hot climate where the buildings are located. This modelling exercise got me exploring other folding techniques to see how else this shading device could have been designed.

As you can see I experimented with three forms and folding techniques and these could all be developed to a solar shading device, I developed the first example into a design proposal below.

If attached to central support with an electronically programmed mechanism that could slide to open/close the component the surface area would open up to provide the shading. This design could be scaled-up to shade whole facades of buildings. It would offer more thermal shading if installed on the exterior of a building (outside glazing) however it could be fitted behind a glazed rainscreen, though thermal gain would still be an issue to some extent.

T5a – Parametric Design

Having come to grips with 3D modelling program Rhinoceros over the bank holiday weekend, I have started to practice using the script writing plug-in Grasshopper. This uses script to help generate 3D forms, within which, parameters can be changed which affects the generated form. Below are three parametric towers, modelled through Grasshopper into Rhinoceros. I have altered the parameters in the script and the differences between the three include height, rotations and distance between ‘floors’:

Although a quick form-generating exercise, it is clear that this method could offer unexpected design solutions that could inform future projects.

T5a – Parametric Design

As mentioned in my previous post, my outline concept of investigation steered me towards parametric design. I have been doing some insightful reading around this subject for the report, including a very good book suggested by my tutor called Algorithms Aided Design by Arturo Tedeschi.

The book explains parametric design strategies using Grasshopper for Rhinoceros and I am looking forward to developing my skillset in this area over the coming weeks…

T5a Technology Report

From the initial outline concept of Crystals, further research in this area has led me to discover and learn more about the atomic structure of crystals in general. Crystals are composed of ‘perfect’ structures known as Lattices. Structural diagrams of the atoms could be likened to architectural structural diagrams.

Atomic diagram of Sodium Chloride. The crystal’s lattice is very structured and symmetrical.

What has been very eye-opening for me is what happens when the atoms do not appear in their ordered position; the structure of the crystal responds and defects/impurities become evident within the matter. Within the physical build-up of the matter there can be either missing or additional atoms; in each case the structure changes. The atoms have a ‘field of influence’ – and when a parameter changes, the matter responds accordingly.

My investigations have led to me to another area of architectural research that I am really excited to investigate further: Parametric Design.

T5a – Salt Building NYC inspired by Salt Crystal

As part of my early investigative work around the concept of crystals, I initially explored the notion of buildings being informed literally by crystals. One building I found was the NYC Salt Store in Manhattan, the form of which was derived from that of a salt crystal. My drawing of the building below:


Although I appreciated the unique form of the building and its relationship to its function of storing salt, I felt the connection to my initial area of research was too literal and I decided not to focus on crystals informing the form/appearance of buildings and intend to develop my research in another area that would offer more of a challenge and open my research into another area of study.

T5a Technology Investigative Report

The starting point for my investigative report is going to based around the concept of Crystals. I have selected this area of research as Crystallography interests and intrigues me: there is a mythical, magical and enchanting quality to crystals and I feel that research into this area may provide theory concepts that could be linked to architectural practice. 

As an initial starting point, I believe there could be multiple potential paths. After studying the Turner Contemporary and its ‘crystalline’ appearance I could chose to focus on the aesthetic link between crystals and architecture. Or as I develop my research into this area I could be taken down a different route. I am excited for what I might discover…