Architecture that Responds – Interactive Facades


Façades are but one part of the architectural process – they protect a building, can offer shading as stand as the separation between interior and exterior, all in the all, the front that a building presents. While façades have always been a notable architectural feature, evolutionary technologies are allowing for this feature to, sometimes literally, shine.

Describing this industry perspective change is Arup contributor and architect turned façade consultant Ignacio Fernandez in his report ‘Responsive Façades for Smarter Cities’.

“Façades are the screen wall of cities: put simply, things hang from them,” says Fernandez.


The things he is referring to are different technologies. From LED screens, lighting features and video projects just to name a few. That isn’t even touching upon sustainability or conceptual ideas, which would see the creation of weather responsive building skins and façades that adapt to changing climes.

One such project which stands as a pre-emptive concept what could be possibly be implemented onto larger scale works is the ‘LightScraper’ designed by interactive design specialists ENNES. The designers describe the project as ‘part civic structure, part musical instrument’ as the development offers to engage audiences and literally interact with their movements.

Noisy installation in Tokyo

Presented at the 2009 Rainbow Serpent Music Festival, the LightScraper is a structure that uses realtime 3D graphics in addition to human motion-tracking technology to engage with those who entre its triangular form. The structure uses the aforementioned technologies in addition to infrared cameras in order to develop custom melodies and visuals that directly correlate with the visitor’s movements.

Further developments that include façades with similar responsive, or reactive natures are Haus des Lehreres in Berlin, which has a mobile connected Ping-Pong enabled façade called Blinkenlights and developed by company CCC, in addition to Christian Moeller’s Noisy installation, located in Tokyo, which includes a robotic camera that reflects the area’s changing surrounds onto white LED panels.

Blinkenlights das haus des lehrers

While this kind of technology use does seem to be in the majority for hedonistic purposes, the practicality of having architecture that responds to its habitants is definitely an exciting realm of exploration. We could be on the threshold of buildings that self-diagnose maintenance issues or shift interior climates naturally so as to warm or cool a building in relation to its outside temperature.

The opportunities are endless, and as cutting edge technologies slowly become more affordable, commercial potential will also become feasible.

By Emily D’Alterio
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