Multifaceted – creating facades with personality

September 7th, 2016 Posted in: Lakesmere

Conveying a building’s sense of character and individuality is no easy feat. In many schools, hospitals and other public realm buildings, one way that this has traditionally been achieved is via the commissioning of a mural; a unique artwork that harmonises with the architectural features and pays homage to the purpose or location of a building. Now new technical advances in the design and delivery of cladding and glazing systems has helped to move this idea on to the next level by allowing designs to be added to the external envelope.

A fitting example is the National Graphene Institute, a state of the art research facility commissioned by the University of Manchester and designed by Jestico + Whiles. The envelope of the five-storey building comprises two structurally independent frames, designed to minimize any vibrations that could interfere with the experimental work inside. The ‘inner skin’ has been created using a metallic silver cladding panel system and structural glazing systems. Wrapping around this inner envelope is a ‘veil’ of polished black stainless steel cladding, which gives the building its unique, fluid appearance. Each of the black cladding panels was perforated with hexagons, using the size of the perforations to depict the striking visual representation of equations relating to graphene which are visible on the finished facade.

With projects such as the National Graphene Institute setting the bar, there is much debate about whether bespoke facades are by their very nature ‘one offs’ or if it is possible for building facades to go through the production line and still incorporate design intent. This is a challenge that we have already faced at Here East, the new digital technology hub located in the heart of London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Lakesmere was appointed by main contractor Laing O’Rourke to deliver the distinctive cladding package that has been designed by leading architects Hawkins Brown, inspired by the ‘dazzle camouflage’ patterns used on battleships during World War I. As the biggest structure within the Olympic Park’s Media Complex, the intimidating bulk of the building has been opened up through the use of a double-glazed unitised curtain walling system to the south, west and east elevations. Each of the 3000 glazed panels that make up the facade of Here East features a unique frit pattern, comprising over eight million digitally printed ceramic dots that cascade at different diagonal angles seamlessly around the building.

The success of creating bespoke building facades is as much down to the new advances in technology that is informing the way that companies such as Lakesmere approach design briefs as it is good, old fashioned supply chain collaboration. For the industry to really move forward however it is vital that the manufacturer is brought in at the earliest opportunity. Taking advantage of technology must be proactive and embraced at the earliest stage so that manufacturers and specialist such as Lakesmere can look to offer the most creative solutions to meeting design briefs and budgets.

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