Archive for August 23rd, 2010

August 23, 2010


PLP Architecture has announced a collaboration with the University College London (UCL Energy Institute) and Bentley Systems to sponsor the development of new software tools for parametric design that focus on energy and the environment. In architecture, the manipulation of form using the parametric system is well established, and PLP architecture is widely acknowledged in the profession as being on the cutting edge of that technology.

Lars Hesselgren, head of technology and advanced geometry at PLP, explained the idea behind this collaboration: “PLP Research is focused on providing better tools for architects and engineers to predict behaviour of complex systems, such as the built environment. The control of geometric form has been the focus of current parametric design systems. By teaming up with UCL Energy Institute and Bentley Systems, PLP aims to extend that ease of control into the energy space-time domain, where manipulating performance is as important as manipulating form. By coupling geometric form and performance very tightly, optimisation and exploration will be orders of magnitude faster and easier. As part of this collaboration, an Engineering Doctorate researcher will be embedded in the studios of PLP to work closely with design teams while developing such innovative tools and techniques.”

Amy Holtz, head of sustainability at PLP, commented,”For PLP Architecture, the goal of achieving sustainability is not an afterthought, but rather is inherent in our principles of design. Our aim is to integrate passive design strategies with a dynamic approach to form finding. This new parametric design tool will allow us as designers to quickly generate, evaluate, discard and or proceed with alternatives in which architectural responses are closely linked with quantitative and qualitative environmental drivers. Integrating this tool into the design teams from the earliest stages will foster a process of ‘optimisation’ rather than ‘revision’ as a design evolves from concept to reality.”

The team is now accepting applicants for the Engineering Doctorate researcher. The Eng D candidate will be supervised and supported by Professor Tadj Oreszczyn, Head of UCL Energy Institute, Lars Hesselgren, Director Research PLP and Volker Mueller, Research Director for Computational Design at Bentley Systems.

Interested and qualified applicants can find further information and application procedures here:

August 23, 2010

Cladding Renzo Piano’s Shard

11 June 2010 | By Martin Spring

The connection detail between the outer and inner skins through the triple glazed facade.

Source: Bart Akkerhuis

Visualisation of the Shard at London Bridge.

A 1:1 full-scale mock-up of the facade panel with the double-glazed orange blind boxes behind a single-glazed fixed outer skin.

A visualisation of the Shard at levels 26-28.

A visualisation of the Shard at levels 26-28.

Architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Location St Thomas Street, London SE1
Completion date May 2012

Two blocks south of London Bridge, Renzo Piano’s 72-storey, £416 million Shard is visibly blasting skywards. When completed in 2012, this tower, containing offices, apartments and a hotel, will be 306m high – 71m higher than Britain’s current tallest building, One Canada Square at Canary Wharf – making it the tallest habitable structure in Western Europe.

In truth, the Shard is not the geometrically perfect “sharp crystal pyramid” of its architect’s description but a loose bivouac of eight elongated, jagged shards of glass all seemingly propping each other up at the pinnacle.

The eight shards slope at a constant inclination of six degrees from vertical all the way up from pavement right up to the pinnacle. This loose assembly is expressed by leaving “fractures”, at the junctions of the planes and stopping these off with conventional vertical glazing.

The eight facades themselves could hardly be simpler in appearance – sheer curtain walls of clear glass, uncluttered by any form of external structure or solar shading.


Great pains have been taken by Renzo Piano Building Workshop to make the Shard’s facade as transparent and flush as possible, while also ensuring it is thermally efficient.

Transparency is increased by specifying low-iron laminated glass. “The glass just disappears, and all you see is the skeleton of the building,” says project architect William Matthews.
A colourless solar-control coating of Ipasol made by Interpane has been applied “to make the building look wonderfully glassy”.

In addition a colourless low-emissivity coating has been added to reduce the reflection of infra-red radiation back into the building. The main solar control comes from the roller blinds that are woven in glass-fibre by Hexcel to reduce solar radiation by 95% while still leaving the curtain wall semi-transparent. The total solar radiation passing through the facade – the G value – amounts to only 0.12%.

To achieve the immaculately flush finish, the external glass panes oversail the polyester coated aluminium glazing beads and butt up against each other.

Scheldebouw is propping the glass on timber blocks for 48 hours while the silicon that bonds it to the glazing beads sets. This, Matthews claims, eliminates the very slight dishing effect that can mar curtain walls of double glazing units.


For the occupants of this immense air-conditioned tower, access to fresh air is offered through two or three winter gardens on each floor. These are located at the “fractures” between the tower’s inclined shards.

The winter gardens are enclosed behind conventional vertical curtain walls that step back every sixth floor. The curtain wall is made up of the same sealed double-glazed units as the inner leaf of the inclined shards but without the rainscreen outer leaf and roller blinds. In fact, one of these glazing units in each winter garden is a conventional top-hung opening window.

ince the winter gardens are more exposed to the external environment, they are separated from the main habitable floor space by single-glazed partitions.

The floor plan shows a typical office level. The winter gardens are located in three corners and feature opening windows.


“What we are building here is a great big greenhouse,” explains William Matthews. “So the problem is how to stay cool inside. The simplest way would be to provide external sunshading. But you can’t do that 200 metres up in the air, where it would flap around in the wind.”

Instead sun-shading is provided by motorised roller blinds incorporated within the external envelope. The design team stuck rigorously to this principle over the 10 years that the building took to design and pass through a £4 million public inquiry. But this posed another major problem in technical design that was solved with a U-turn from what Matthews calls an active facade to a passive facade.

The active facade initially adopted by the design team involved mechanically ventilating the cavities in the double-glazing units that housed the roller blinds. But the increased energy efficiency brought in by the 2006 revision of Part L of the building regulations meant that low-velocity fans would now be needed to ventilate the cavities. This in turn called for bulky ducts to be housed within the cavities and affect the facade’s transparency.

So the team switched to a passive facade in which the roller blinds are protected from wind and rain by single glazing. Thermal insulation is provided by hermetically sealed double-glazed units making up the inner skin of the facade.

Each outer cavity housing the roller blind is now 250mm wide, unventilated and requires periodic maintenance by opening the internal double-glazed panel on side hinges. Because of the depth of this cavity, the aluminium window mullion has been split into two connected by narrow spacing bars.

Winds at the spire’s pinnacle are less of a problem than turbulence at lower levels caused by the neighbouring Guy’s Hospital tower, claims Matthews.

The slight inclination of the facades reduces updraft, while a 4m-wide glass canopy at first floor level shields pedestrians outside.

Matthews claims the passive facade helped the building exceed the 2006 revision of Part L by 25% and would also pass the increased standards of this year’s revision. He also expects the building to achieve a Breeam “excellent” rating.

Matthews admits that, though simpler, the passive facade is more expensive than its active antecedent. The total 55,000sq m
curtain wall package cost £60 million, which is just over £1,000 per square metre.


Client Sellar Properties, Executive architect Adamson Associates, Facade consultant Emmer Pfenninger & Partner, Main contractor Mace, Cladding sub-contactor Scheldebouw (UK),Glass coating Interpane, Glass supplier Flachglass, Blind motors Somfy, Blind fabricHexcel, Steelwork paint systems Leigh’s Paints


August 23, 2010

Porta Fira Towers

foto construcción hotel Porta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAArchitects: Toyo Ito (ITO AA) + Fermín Vázquez (b720 Arquitectos)
Location: Plaza Europa 45-47 (Hotel) 41-43 (Oficinas), 08902 L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, 
Total Area: 80.108 sqm (56.014sqm s/r + 24.093sqm b/r)
Hotel: 34.688sqm (23.395sqm s/r + 11.293sqm b/r)
Offices: 45.420sqm (32.619sqm s/r + 12.800sqm b/r)
Proyect date: 2004-2006
Hotel: April 2006 – Jan 2010
Offices: April 2006 – May 2009
Photos: Nils Becker,  AA

The key priorities behind this architectural project by  and , headed by Fermín Vázquez, are to respond to the immediate environment and serve as a gateway to the cities of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and  from El Prat International Airport.

The project consists of two differentiated towers that engage in a subtle dialogue. Despite the clear contrast between the buildings in terms of form, the relationship they establish is harmonious and complementary. The buildings (each 110 m high) play a highly symbolic role as they pay tribute to the historical Venetian towers that stand at the entrance to the exhibition centre located near Plaza España in .

Variable geometry
The hotel tower (GF+25)* was designed with an organic form and appears to change as one moves around it. Given the building’s geometrical complexity, the façade is divided into two skins. The inner skin is a sealed envelope based on a light curtain-wall solution with aluminium and glass panels designed to fully meet all acoustic, thermal and sealing requirements. The exterior façade acts as a second skin that provides texture and accommodates the tower’s variable geometry. The skin is made of independent aluminium tubes whose ends are attached to ball-and-socket joints that allow for the desired torsion.

The relationship between the ball-and-socket joints, the aluminium tubes, and the supporting structure is what allows the entire surface of the façade to gradually and continuously adapt, expressing rotation, movement and growth as the tower rises upwards. The tower is divided into three thirds. The geometry of the lower two thirds is based on variable rotation and displacement, whereas in the upper third, the ground plan is deformed and scaled up to increase the surface area and perimeter of the tower.

Office building
The office building (GF+22)* – orthogonal in form and positioned perpendicular to the central axis of Plaza Europa (at 30o to Gran Vía) – marks the end of the plaza and engages in a dialogue with the bordering structures symmetrically located on the other side of Gran Vía (two orthogonal towers perpendicular to the axis). This is even more apparent when one sees that when the core of the office building reaches the façade it is cut by an invisible vertical plane that is aligned with the central axis of Plaza Europa.

The office tower complements and responds to the perceived twisting and movement of the hotel building. At first glance it appears to be a pure volume with a glass curtain wall set back slightly with respect to the floor slab. However, the red vertical core of the building, situated on the edge of the ground plan, is organic in form and reflects the structure of the hotel tower. The two towers are also linked by a shared atrium. A large base joins the towers and amplifies the impact of their structure.

The unique look of the buildings, combined with their 110 m height and a total built surface area of 80,108 m2, makes the project a milestone for the new Plaza Europa and the city of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, and a clear reference point on the  skyline.

Porta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAPorta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAPorta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAPorta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAPorta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAPorta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAPorta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAPorta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAPorta Fira Tower / Toyo Ito b720 © Nils Becker, Toyo Ito AAubicación location planplanta de acceso floor planplanta tipo type floor plancorte sectionfoto construcción hotel-1 hotel plantas hotel tower floor plan 1hotel plantas-1 hotel tower floor plan 2hotel geometría hotel tower diagramshotel fachadas hotel tower elevationshotel detalles hotel tower detailsfotos construcción torre de oficinas-1 fotos construcción torre de oficinas corte torre oficinas office tower sectionplanta torre oficinas office tower floor plan 1planta torre oficinas-1 office tower floor plan 2www.plataformaarquitectura office tower floor plan 3