Facades Today – A Story of Art and Science

By June 07 , 2017
Hotel Crowne Plaza in Greater Noida

The design of façades in buildings today has become a complex exercise. Façade has always been a design statement of a building. With the evolution of glass facades, the installation of continuous glass itself was considered as a marvel. Thereafter, it further evolved with the introduction of other cladding materials like ACP, HPL, other metal sheet claddings, etc. Today, the design and execution of façade has moved beyond the client requirements, and designers are looking at it as a piece of art which can be appreciated by someone in fast moving car as well as an onlooker who is standing and experiencing it. They are willing to experiment so that the building stand unique amongst the others. At the same time the basic performance science factors of structural stability, air and water permeability resistance, thermal and acoustic performance have to be maintained. We take pride in executing some of the complex design elements that were engineered and executed in reality after it was merely a concept sketch by an architect as a desired element.

Sangam Theatre in R.K. Puram
The Sangam Theatre in R.K. Puram, New Delhi – The façade showcases a double skin system with glass and CNC cut aluminium sheets
Sangam Theatre in R.K. Puram
Another view of the façade – The Sangam Theatre in R.K. Puram, New Delhi

In one of our earlier projects at Hotel Crowne Plaza in Greater Noida, the architect had planned for a big piece of art to be done on one of the walls of the building. The budget provided by a professional artist was way beyond the affordability of the project. Our design team then sat with the designers and engineered a solution for their liking which was well within their allocated budget. The installation was created with multiple shades of ACP panels in different sizes and planes. For it to be in sync with the façade, glass was also integrated in the design. Another striking feature was integration of LED lighting on the façade which itself was a very nascent concept around the time the project was executed. Vertical fins were fabricated in SS composite panel in a complex shape that was in a gradient with varying sizes. Then LED was concealed in a U groove created in front of the fin.

DLF Mall of India, Noida
DLF Mall of India, Noida: Colourful ACP fi ns and panels that were illuminated with LED concealed in specially designed and extruded aluminium channel

Another project which was interesting as well as iconic, goes somewhere way back in my childhood — the Sangam Theatre in R.K. Puram, New Delhi. The new façade of the building beautifully accommodates all the modern design elements of façade design today. A double skin system with glass and CNC cut Aluminium sheets along with integrated LED lighting has been a good engineering design concept. The signage system for the building was designed as a feature element with aluminium perforated sheet providing flexibility and ease of installation with a walkway designed in the back. The signage space was a smooth marriage of design and functionality that has made easy for any new tenant in the premises to easily install the signage without disturbing the functionality of the mall or blocking the space with an ugly scaffold on the facia. The design on the CNC cut sheet was carried as a central theme on other installations in the building – be it with the ceramic fritting on the atrium and main entrance glasses or the grooving and cutting on the false ceiling panels in the atrium.

The fire escape staircases added in MS, later after building was up at DLF Mall of India project executed in Noida, was designed very intelligently, for them to become featured elements of façade and as signage opportunities. The colour scheme of the logo of the mall was used in the form of ACP panels that were illuminated with LED concealed in specially designed and extruded aluminium channel for the project. The colour scheme then extended into the main entrance tubular ACP fins. To maintain the exactness of the colour, the tubes were PVDF coated in the same colours instead of being powder coated. Another interesting element used in the project was expanded mesh. The pattern, design, pitch and elongation of the same was finalized after multiple iterations and submission of the samples. The product was also installed as a mock-up first, to be seen and for approval of the fixing details in real, instead of just on the paper in the form of shop drawings. A second mock-up was done after incorporating some of the observations by the architect from the first mock-up. The actual installation was taken up after the second mock-up was approved. All this is possible with an involved client and architect with whom it’s always a pleasure to develop design intent to reality.

The key to any innovation is to think beyond boundaries and material restriction. Many a times a design concept is shot down by saying that this practically is not possible to be executed. But we have our experiences where with hard work, time and effort it can be made to happen, the solution can be engineered. As a couple, we always have this interesting debate where I shall be pushing Nikhil (Nikhil Jain is the author’s spouse and Managing Director at Alpro Industries) to ensure that the challenging design intent communicated by the architect is transformed into an actual visible product which reminds of the great works of legendary architects in the form of iconic buildings recognized by the world today that motivates us to be part of their development journey.

Another view of the façade of DLF Mall of India, Noida
Another view of the façade of DLF Mall of India, Noida

Another project that we are currently working on is very interesting where we are trying to create the effect of prismatic glass without using a prismatic glass. We have been working patiently with the international as well as local architects along with the client to create a beautiful glass box with a jewel effect. Many more features in the project, be it the canopy being designed, aesthetic fin profiles, etc., are all being developed progressively and patiently. All this is being achieved with multiple samples developed from time to time. Behind each sample on site lies multiple samples and prototypes developed in our factory in Haridwar. We are thankful to the client for showing confidence in us. To see the project from design stage to extensive façade and material engineering, and now going through the installation, weaves into a beautiful story of hard work, design and engineering. We shall love to share the details of the project one day when the same is completed.

 

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