Why Can’t Buildings Change Clothes, Just Like You Do?

It really doesn’t make sense to build a brand-new green building, if you can simple retrofit one with a high-performance “skin.”

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The green building boom shows no signs of slowing. New buildings still command all the headlines–even though the most eco-friendly move of all is to simply use what you have, as long as you can. Finally, it looks like architects are catching on, if these two new projects are any indication.


Above is a concept designed by LAVA for reskinning a building in downtown Sydney, originally built in the 1960s. It idea was to rewrap the building in a stretchy, mesh textile, which could create a microclimate, cooling the building inside. It would also become a high-performance scaffolding loaded with solar panels, rainwater collection systems, and a media facade:

The architects argue that reskinning technology could be quickly and cheaply applied to any building in need of a facelift–ranging from the Barbican Centre in London to the abandoned industrial buildings littering Hong Kong.


The dirty secret among architects is that, just like Apple or Nike, a big driver of their businesses is consumption–ever changing ideas of what’s cool or unique. But minimal interventions could reintroduce novelty to an old building–and be cheap enough that they could be refreshed as needed.

One lovely example is this installation by Ball Nogues, which is now slated for installation on the facade of an old parking lot designed by Frank Gehry. Inspired by Newton Balls–those desktop toys made of clacking metal balls–the structure is made of 450 stainless balls, strung to a single point on the roof. They’re held in place simply by gravity:


They probably petty be triple sure that they’ve got some mighty anchors on the rooftop–or at least a security guard keeping people from loitering like the person in the rendering.


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Building refreshes can be pretty great–as proven by Allied Work’s redesign of 2 Columbus Circle. It’s only a matter of time until they also become ultra-green.

[Via E-Architect, Curbed, and Architect’s Newspaper]


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.