39 The art of facades

Simon Gregory of Proteus Facades looks at how advances in facade materials and finishes are allowing architects to ‘sell the dream’ to clients of integrating art and design in our cityscapes, as demonstrated on a new research unit in London


ver the last few years there has been much discussion about how building design is being influenced

by art. As a result, art, design and architec- ture are becoming more closely integrated and the introduction of new facade materi- als and finishes is helping with this. Extending the options available to designers with finishes such as patinated brass and weathered steel gives them an ability to engage the observer and make them look beyond the basic ‘four walls and a roof’. If we pause and examine the facade of any building we pass by, inhabit, work or live in we might see that architecture can often be a form of visual art. An example of this is Imperial College’s new Molecular Sciences Research Hub in London. The striking perforated panels in were manufac- tured in TECU Brass with a Capisco patinated finish, helping the designers create a dynamic aesthetic.

Molecular facade

Perforated brass cladding with patination applied by Capisco was chosen for the Hub because the designers Aukett Swanke felt it reflected the molecular science that takes place inside. Alongside this, the designers chose a combination of other materials for the facade including concrete and glass curtain walling. They specified Capisco’s CAP 55 finish for the Proteus SC perforated panels early in the design process because they were looking to complement the flat bare concrete facade and glazed elements. The CAP 55 effect was hand-applied, giving the perforated panels an enhanced flow, feel and texture. The appearance of the panels changes depending on the level of sunlight and the angle at which they are viewed from. The end result is a strikingly beautifully building that appears to move and shimmer across the visually flat facade beneath. In that respect, it achieves what the designers set out to do – integrating art, design and architecture to create a building that inspires the viewer.

ADF SEPTEMBER 2017 This design theme flows to internal areas,

too, with the perforated panels seamlessly transitioning through the entrance glazing to form a striking feature within the atrium. This creates an impressive solar composi- tion, accentuated by spotlights, when visitors cast their eyes upwards. Commenting on the development, Elias

Niazi, design principal at Aukett Swanke, said: “The contrast between the concrete, glass and patinated brass couldn’t be more complementary and, with it, aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The visual outcomes on this project have exceeded expectations. The perforated patterns on the brass panels with artistic patinations add a sense of mystery and mirror the innovative research works carried out inside the building.” The project also included the manufactur- ing of the window flashings, again in a matching patinated finish. Initially conceived as a simple window flashing, a real technical challenge had to be overcome – the profile of the window reveal is a narrow box that tapers across the width to make it appear as though the window


Perforated and patinated brass panels complement concrete and glass on the facade of Imperial College’s new Molecular Sciences Research Hub, designed by Aukett Swanke

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