Interactive Facades- Digital enhancement of urban spaces

A facade in its basic essence is generally an exterior side or surface of a building, usually the front. Facades not only form the outer skin of buildings but also project image and creative intent and set the tone of the design. It is an essential part of the building’s aesthetics, complementing the structural form and outlining its visual impact on the urban environment. Architecture is a technology-intensive discipline, where technologies are used both in the design process and its products and keeps evolving with new changes brought by the computer such as computer-aided design, constructed automation, virtual places and intelligent buildings. Technologies that allow spaces to sense, think, and respond to their occupants and surrounding environment are considered exemplars. The term interactivity, in general, is about the human experience. Here, however, it relates to human experience with an intelligent responsive building system. Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, this interactive architecture causes an intelligent response. 

Intelligent facades are equipped with sensors which enable the spaces to perceive and understand the phenomenon. Such intelligent environments are able to watch what is happening in them, build a model of them, communicate with their inhabitants and act based on the decision they make.

Interactive architecture is built upon the convergence of embedded computation and a physical counterpart that satisfies adaptation within the framework of interaction. It encompasses both buildings and environments that have been designed to respond, adapt, change and come to life. For instance, the project Gurnani Villa in Dubai by AUM Architects showcases a brilliantly constructed interactive facade that has been adapted in a contemporary style with a strong influence of modernism to reflect the glaring sun of the emirate. The classic glass facade which is the perfect aesthetic envelope for a modern building blurs the boundaries and tempers the flow from exterior to interior, exploiting maximum light and bringing the outside in and making the intramural spaces look like an extension of its immediate environment. The glass facade is oriented facing north to infuse the internal spaces with incandescent light. This facade links the living room and dining rooms with the swimming pool which is used as an overspill area with a serene water reflection. The glass facade is complemented with an eco-friendly and durable natural sandstone and aluminium fins used at varied intervals to play with light & shadows and minimize the harsh flow of heat radiation in the internal spaces. The East to West facade is partially covered with an eco-friendly and durable natural sandstone to minimize the harsh flow of heat radiation in the internal spaces. The facade is also enveloped with aluminium fins with intervals of glass allowing the gleaming light indoors. Each facade orientation has been tailored to control the internal environment, providing a suitable temperature in each zone. The play of different materials with completely different textures and colours makes the facade pleasing and less monotonous to the human eye. 

Aesthetically successful architecture can only result from an integrated approach. By correctly formulating a facade’s purpose, seeking inspiration in programmatic requirements, and engaging in design reviews, it is not only visually pleasing but also cost-effective, secure/safe, sustainable, accessible and functional. The use of a layer of screens or non-glazed materials are the prerequisites of a hybrid system. Bespoke unitised aluminium curtain walling provides high-performance glazing systems complete with various opaque infill treatments. A well-designed facade system provides a relatively unobtrusive method of achieving building security. Proper designing of a double skin facade can not only improve the indoor climate but also reduce the use of energy in a building. Daylighting significantly impacts buildings and their occupants. In the absence of proper solar control, occupants tend to draw blinds when visual or thermal comfort thresholds are exceeded. Therefore it is necessary to evaluate and compare the merits of the various systems as well as their environmental success. 

As energy consumption in big cities is high but space is very rare and fossil energy sources are more and more replaced by renewable solutions, the integration of solar and photovoltaic into high rise building facades are being considered substantially. 

Rather than serving as a static enclosure, the building skin has the potential to redirect and filter daylight, provide natural ventilation, manage heat transfer and create visual and physical connections between the inside and the outside.