Windows and Facades

Have you noticed? Our current issue has a new look. We’ve cleaned up the cover, strengthening important elements and eliminating others. Inside the magazine you can find some more innovations to our graphic design. Instead of making a comprehensive list, we invite you to discover them for yourself. With this layout revision, we are continuing our strategy of developing Detail in many small steps. We have designed its appearance to be more generous without sacrificing in-depth content. A number of important elements remain constant – above all the Detail banner on the cover, which has accompanied us in its unchanged form since our first edition in 1961.

While we have dared to do a few new things with this current issue, another decade of architecture is coming to a close. The 2010s put new topics on the agenda and reminded us of the importance of old topics – thinking in material cycles, addressing social issues, and the increasing housing shortage in Europe’s ­cities, to name but a few. We are experiencing an embrace of prefabrication in architecture, the rise of timber construction, and increasingly sophisticated approaches to parametric planning methods, which today are no longer understood as mere tools for generating spectacular building forms. From a global perspective, the epicentre of building is shifting further east, and in many Asian countries a new, highly developed building culture has emerged alongside ordinary investor-driven properties.

In the coming half year, important topics of our time will be addressed in the Detail thematic editions. In March, we will look at the relationship between architecture and urban mobility. In April, we will address the necessary but controversial issue of urban densification. In May, we will focus on the tendency to ­connect interior and exterior spaces ever more closely – through balconies, terraces and loggias, which are playing an increasingly important role in architecture. And for June, a special issue on prefabrication and serial construction is in the works.

This current issue of Detail deals with a long-running issue in architecture: the design of facades and the role of windows in the building envelope. In earlier eras, the facade was primarily the face of a building – reflecting its origins in the Latin term “facies”. But in the 20th century, it has become increasingly important as a technically advanced building shell. The basic functions of facades have always remained the same: heat and sun protection, light transmission, air supply and, last but not least, as an image bearer and signifier. Our projects in this issue show how radically different solutions can be used to fulfil these functions depending on location and building typology. At the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran, Snøhetta’s architects merged roof and facade, windows and a closed building envelope into a filigree work of lines reminiscent of the structures of a fingerprint. With their home in Zurich, Fuhrimann Hächler Architekten celebrate the rugged simplicity of the outer wall construction and the multifunctionality of the metal windows integrated into it. The facade design of the educational facility in Genk by Kempe Thill Architekten is minimalist and expansive, while the school in Orsonnens by Ted’A and Rapin Saiz Architectes is eclectic and playful with echoes of local building traditions. And what could better illustrate the diversity of contemporary facade design than the softly upholstered shell of Petr Hájek’s cultural centre in Prague and the concrete brutalism of OMA’s Norra Tornen residential towers in Stockholm?

In our essay, we examine one of the most momentous innovations in facade design of the last 100 years: the brise-soleil, which since the days of Le Corbusier has shaped many buildings with its dual nature as both a source of shade and a design element. Another innovation, the double glass facade, is presented in a particularly memorable form in our Technology feature. At the new IOC headquarters by 3XN in Lausanne, not only the facade construction, but also parts of the supporting structure follow the building’s undulating shape as its swoops inward and outwards, which is intended to symbolize the dynamic of sports.

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