The WAN Façade Award 2016 attracts entries from all over the world, demonstrating the best in façade design and showcasing the new technologies that continue to take this transformational building feature into new realms. As one of the most important elements in buildings today, façades often cost more than the structural frame and also define modern buildings in terms of architecture and environmental performance.
A longlist of 28 projects were recently assessed by a panel of experts. Using their extensive knowledge gained from experience in this sector, the jury assessed factors including originality, innovation and form, while investigating the project’s effectiveness in meeting the client brief and pushing the boundaries for façade design through innovation and original features.
This year’s esteemed judging panel were: Bart Akkerhuis, founder of Studio Akkerhuis, Jennifer Dixon, Head of Architecture in Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at AECOM, Dennis Ho, Principal at HASSELL, and Damian Rogan, Director of International Design Engineering at Eckersley O’Callaghan.
The jury were impressed with the high standard of this year’s innovative entries, and were faced with the difficult task of selecting a shortlist. After much discussion, six projects were selected, listed below in no particular order:
The National Aquarium, Den Blå Planet in Kastrup, Denmark by 3XN Architects.
Shaped as a whirlpool, the façade of this aquarium tells the story of what awaits inside with great expressiveness. 3XN selected the concept not only for its visual associations but also because it resolved a practical challenge in the design brief, ensuring that the management can extend one or more of the whirlpool ‘arms’ with relative ease and without disrupting the building’s integrity or operation. Dennis responded to the ingenuity of this design challenge, marking the building out as “a tour de force that requires precision in the construction of the cladding.” Diamond-shaped aluminium shingles adapt to the building's organic form and reflect the colours and light of the sky and sea. The building's architectural façade design forms the foundation for the design of the steel structures. This load-bearing system consists of 54 unique steel frames, which via their radial positioning and geometry form the base of the curved façade. Jennifer praised the carefully considered three dimensional coherence of project, stating: “Its geometry is absolutely beautiful.”
Shanghai Tower in Shanghai, China by Gensler.
This 121-story tower is a new symbol of Shanghai, and posed not only the construction challenges involved in a supertall building, but also through a design that entailed the completion of the outer curtain wall from the top down within each zone. On the exterior, a deep V-notch in the façade makes the spiralling geometry readily apparent, while mitigating the winds that swirl around the building. The design incorporates two independent curtain walls: the outer skin that is cam-shaped in plan and the inner one that is circular. These two wall systems created the possibility for Shanghai Tower’s one-of-a-kind sky gardens, spaced throughout the building. For Bart, the standout feature of the project is the resulting green space incorporated into the design, which he noted is “virtually unknown to commercial skyscrapers.” Damian agreed, saying: “The Winter Gardens are unique.” A central aspect of the design is the transparent second skin that acts like an insulating blanket, reducing energy use for heating and cooling. Bart observed: “LEED Platinum certification is impressive for a tower of this size.”
Bristol Royal Infirmary Extension in Bristol, United Kingdom by NIETO SOBEJANO ARQUITECTOS SLP.
The façade of this hospital reinvigorates an existing building in a poor state of conservation, which over time had become distorted by unfortunate additions. A restricted competition sought out a façade solution that would create a non-threatening and pleasant impression on patients and visitors. Rather than radically changing the original image of the building, the new design transforms it by following the same geometrical law that generated it. The jury praised the result as impressive, with Bart stating: “The project used to have a very intimidating façade but is now very welcoming, whilst still respecting the old architecture.” The design wraps the existing grid with white aluminium profiles, thus solving the technical problems, while the new lattice display comes away from the façade creating interstitial public spaces that suggest a new relationship between the hospital and its urban context. The thermally-efficient building envelope aims to reduce heating energy consumption and internally improve patient comfort levels. Damian considered the project both achieved its aims and successfully delivered the concept.
371 Broadway in New York, United States by ODA New York.
This residential building carves out a contemporary architectural niche in a neighborhood known for historical context, while retaining references to the past in its design. ODA were given the challenge to resolve a problem left by the original developer, whose approach had faltered when it came to organising the apartments. 371 Broadway’s long form was condensed to create a shorter footprint with more efficient apartment layouts. Outside, Tribeca’s cast iron craftsmanship is reinterpreted with handmade basketweave brick, featuring curved details and expressing a similar scale to that of its pre-war neighbours. This brick resembles the character created by cast iron facades and their articulated columns. Jennifer was taken with this reference to the surrounding heritage, saying the façade was “a gorgeous and rich composition of materials executed in a virtuoso manner,” going on to state: “I think the memory of steel construction, but using brick, is a really unusual approach that has resulted in something very rich and attractive.” The jury agreed that the intelligent design approach had resulted in a well-proportioned building, which integrates perfectly within the urban fabric.
Learning Hub (The Hive) in Singapore by Heatherwick studio.
This intriguing set of towers forms a new educational building, created as part of Nanyang Technological University’s campus redevelopment plan. Each tower contains a set of round tutorial rooms, tapering inwards at their base around an atrium. Concrete was chosen as the main fabrication material due to cost and environmental performance, and to challenge perceptions of this industrial material, a bespoke program of customising each façade panel was developed. Re-useable silicone formliners were used to embed bespoke designs by artist Sara Fanelli into the zig-zagging surface. The building has surfaces which do not feel too sharp or perfectly straight, and a warm rather than grey shade of concrete was chosen. The jury was impressed by how much the designers had achieved on a small budget, and appreciated the unity of the towers and their distinctive appearance. Bart stated: “I like how the architects have standardised a very complex form.” Dennis noted the coherence of the outside appearance with the idea of the circular nature of the tutorial rooms inside, saying: “The facades inform the interior architecture to create a unique destination.”
1 New Burlington Place in London, United Kingdom by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.
This project involved the redevelopment of a disparate series of buildings into a cohesively layered urban block, providing 79,000 square feet of contemporary office space over six floors, 33,000 square feet of retail space over three floors and residential use to restored Georgian townhouses. The difficult challenge was to unite these elements in a sensitive and confident manner, and the jury deemed the design approach successful. Jennifer stated: “I think what is so incredibly skilful of this project is it is not a straight frontage, it’s not a stand-alone building, it has so many different façade conditions and it does hang together visually.” The new façade’s tapered form not only reduces perceived mass and increases sun penetration to the ground floor widened public realm but, in continuing upwards, creates unexpected double-height spaces while screening plant at the top floor. The jury singled out the ‘all’ glass façades that utilise closed cavity (CCF) technology, which Jennifer observed would have been difficult to test on such complex interfaces and junction conditions. Damian noted that the project’s overall innovation “is pretty new to London.”
The panel also wanted to commend The Porter School of Environmental Studies in Tel Aviv, Israel by Geotectura + Axelrod-Grobman Architects + NCA, for its exemplary design as the first LEED Platinum certified project in Israel. Amongst the 17 greenest projects in the world that gained 92 points and above in the LEED certification, the eco-conscious approach gained admiration from the jury. Damian stated, “The element which impressed me is the South Façade producing the entire energy source for the whole building.” Jennifer was struck by the “visibility, statement and ambition” of the project, which acts as a living lab of ecological and social values for the community and the environment.
Thank you to all involved in the WAN Façade Award 2016. Congratulations to the six finalists and commended project within this category. An overall winner from the six shortlisted projects will be announced on 24th January 2017.
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