By: Harish Gupta, Habitat-n-Skins
High-rise building façades have their own set of challenges of wind and execution difficulties and that narrows down the options for what you can and cannot do. But at lower heights there is immense scope to be innovative and let the ideas go wild. Some very interesting technologies and materials are used to decorate podiums with very creative designs. The architecture is usually treated differently for the tower which is visible from a far distance and differently for the podium which relates more with the street views on which they stand and blended to form a homogenous massing.
The podium is almost like a personnel identity to the building and that is primarily the reason most architects do not replicate a podium façade design. What they want is to be unique in every way and this paves the ground for innovation in façade with shapes, sizes, treatment, material choices, dynamism of design, technology, etc.
One of the most popular design trends that can be seen in building designs today is how parking podiums are designed. Podiums are generally 3 to 8 or 10 floors which mainly house the services, recreation, entrance lobbies and car park. The buildings in many such cases start after the podium which usually has a very different architecture. Since the human eye level experiences the podiums as the first introduction to the building, the designers give a lot of importance to the lower levels of tall buildings.
These zones will usually have partial glazing for the habitable areas and the entrance lobbies and the rest of the area are designed as naturally ventilated in conformity with planning requirements for parking areas. The correct selection of glass, façade materials and system is primary to a good façade which must strike the right balance between aesthetics and cost.
What leads to such a façade that not only is striking, innovative, long-lasting and cost optimised? Today the façade industry is moving so fast in innovation that it is very difficult even for many leading architects to keep track. Any designer who designs a building must be armed with the knowledge of the façade, materials, fabrication method and erecting method before integrating it in their project. Often it’s easier said than done.
There is a very high amount of innovation that goes into such façade designs. Designers need to explore the length and breadth of the globe to innovate and source materials and fabrication technologies. The design needs to be treated like a sculpture and clients must come to terms of understanding that such types of works are dependent on a huge amount of experimentation and innovation as these are not standardised systems.
Often the budgeting team makes the mistake in the allocation of funds for these areas and compromises are not always in the best interest of the project. One needs to keep an open mind for innovation to happen and allow the designers some free hand to create a landmark that will be cherished for a long time.