Architectural Mantling Warp and Weft

Today, in place of masonry, steel and glass, new materials are emerging for the composition and sustainable design of buildings and their facades.

Olympic Stadium, Munich Olympic Stadium, Munich | Photo: Martina Oefelein At the close of the 1960’s, almost contemporaneous with Frei Otto’s and Günter Behnisch’s plans for the legendary tent roof of Munich’s Olympic Stadium, Christo und Jeanne-Claude were developing the first ideas for their project “Wrapped Reichstag” in Berlin. Both sets of plans – although coming from different perspectives – comprise fundamental technical and artistic-aesthetic considerations on how textile lightness and architecture can be combined. While the floating constructions and tent-roof solutions were internationally admired at the 1972 Olympics as innovative German architecture and engineering achievements, the two American artists still had many hurdles to overcome before they could realise their project. Their action was also planned down to the last detail and with a precision in the dimensional accuracy of the prefabricated woven panels and metal scaffoldings to enable Paul Wallot’s ponderous, historic Reichstag building to disappear under textile coverings. It was finished in summer 1995, and the architecture remained wrapped in a modified textile of aluminised polypropylene for one month. The implementation of this project became a symbol of the reunified Germany, and was viewed by 5 million visitors.

Material metamorphosis under a translucent veil

Herz Jesu Church Munich Herz Jesu Church Munich | Photo: Anton Schedlbauer, Munich Since then, the building’s material metamorphosis under a translucent veil that overlays the building like a garment or a new skin has inspired a number of architects and engineers to new facade solutions oriented on textile design. The Munich architects Allmann Sattler Wappner invoke the concurrence of stability and change, behind whose fascinating and mysterious woven envelopment, expectations about what has been covered conceal themselves - not only in the processing of their glass envelope in the main building of their Herz-Jesu-Kirche, but also on the bell tower.

The latter’s form was executed with metal textiles of right-angled mesh grids whose density increases with height. A moiré effect arises through the overlapping of up to five layers of this mesh - a pageant of figurative images. This concealing textile of metal envelops the wooden bell tower and creates a garment that stands in relation to the hidden body. Here, in this religious context, the spinning and weaving of materials, working on the “fabric of the world,” is lent a transcendental connotation.

A circlet of steel bands

Südwestmetall Heilbronn Südwestmetall Heilbronn | Photo: Johannes Marburg The metal skin for the Südwestmetall company office building in Heilbronn, completed in 2004, evidences more earthly affinities. Architect Dominik Dreiner developed a metal mesh of 0.4 mm flat and 50 mm wide rust-free steel bands that lies on the one-storey, extensively glassed-in construction.

Metal panel

Krupp-Area Bochum Krupp-Area Bochum | Photo: Tomas Riele, Bergisch-Gladbach Petzinka und Pink Architekten (Düsseldorf) utilised the malleable expanded metal facades developed from industrial and construction-site tarpaulins for the repurposing of the landmark Jahrhunderthalle on the grounds of the former Kruppwerke in Bochum. Today, the Montagehalle für die Kunst, a multicultural event venue, is hidden behind a protective covering of wide-meshed, square expanded metal elements that lies over the old walls like a concealing garment of scales. Metal or textile panels enable heterogeneous construction forms to be combined into a unity, connect them with each other and protect them, or permit large-scale volumes to shrink.

Leuphana University Lüneburg Leuphana University Lüneburg | Photo: Klemens Ortmeyer In 2011, the group omparchitekten (Rastede) and Frank Möller made use of the lightness and transparency of expanded metal mesh for their 102 m long facade for the production areas, storage facilities and offices of the Technical Building Management Services on the campus of the Leuphana University (Lüneburg). The surroundings are reflected as roughly gridded images in the membrane-like metal mesh.

Textile façade meshes for energy efficiency

Office Building Polyplan Bremen Office Building Polyplan Bremen | Photo: Nils Günther Energy efficiency, sustainability and cost optimisation were the reasons for the architect Gesine Lingens of Fintel Gründe to utilise simple and innovative materials in the design of the passive-energy office building of the company Polyplan. Instead of wood, Lingens chose a coloured, weather-proof, UV-resistant and tension-resistant mesh stretched tightly around the building forthe facade of the building, which was completed in 2008 in Bremen’s Überseestadt. This plastic netting, which derives originally from garden design and is produced by a small firm in Vorarlberg (Austria), is fastened with rust-free screws, aluminium dics and rubber sealant.

Variable and versatile

smac house Potsdam smac house Potsdam | Photo: Thorsten Klapsch The option of variability enables the use of textile facades in private homes, as well. The smac House, completed in 2008 in Potsdam by kleyer.kolbitz.letzel.freivogel.architekten and Julia Bergmann, has a textile-covered external panel that stands like a second skin in front of the actual external wall, but that can also be adjusted as desired. During the day, the red-plastered house facade shimmers with a shallow iridescence through the grey textile mesh, while for the evening atmosphere the depth effect of the illuminated rooms behind a fine veil defines the appearance of the house.