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How A Transient Building Skin Can Engage Community

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

‍Image Credit: © seier+seier | Flickr

Building skin has the power to hide and protect while also serving to display and reveal. And in particular, building skin that is transient takes on the ability to do all of these things. For example, the Danish Radio Concert Hall in Copenhagen maintains a skin that uses screens which change their display dependent upon time of day and seasons. Such a versatile building skin makes for a building that is more adaptive — able to brighten dark days, and able to further “broadcast” inner productions.

Building skin must often accomplish so much, from energy efficiency to aesthetic appeal. And there is more that can be done. For instance, what happens when a building skin can appear and disappear in time? Suddenly, the interior becomes public as the building skin makes itself invisible. The building becomes chameleon-like, able to transform itself to changing exterior or interior conditions.

‍Image Credit: © seier+seier | Flickr

But what may be best is for a building skin to respond to people. Perhaps based on what goes on in its neighboring exterior or in-use interior. What if a building skin could change according to occupant activity within? Or what if it could change according to the social activities occurring within its outdoor adjacent plaza? Building skin can use triggers put forth by the way people engage with the spaces which it divides or unites. After all, skin can be a boundary which breathes.

All in all, don’t forget that a building skin provides you with great opportunity — to communicate a message, to invite people in, to light up a community, or to protect that which goes on inside. So, as you design, think of all of the functions which your building skin should provide, including its aesthetic appeal. Your building design will be stronger, make a bigger positive difference for occupants, and will likely stand as a more unique work of architecture.

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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

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AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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