Ar. Sumit Dhawan emphasises the need to extend the use of metal facades to residential architecture, extolling their virtues and the added role of technology for sustainable built forms… A facade determines the visual identity, character, and expression of architecture. Its design is also a huge parameter for building performance. Consequently, the facade lies at the convergence of the outward and inward environment, constituting an integral part of the structure.
It is often seen that use of metal in facades is almost always correlated with commercial or institutional architecture. Few examples that instantly come to mind are The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank O Gehry done in titanium, Riverside Museum by Zaha Hadid or even The Sage Gateshead in UK by Norman Foster. But a residence in metal seems to elude the mind. And if the same is proposed, the most common client apprehension is, “I hope it won’t look ‘commercial’”.
In a bid to shake off such inhibitions, I share my research and learnings with you in the hope that this versatile material will see proliferation and innovative approach. Incidentally, given the constantly changing perception of iconic and technologically advanced facades, they are the most difficult to design. It is like working with a two-pronged sword: one, the material and two, technologically driven processes. Speaking of the former – metal offers a unique modern rhythmic aesthetic. Being an eco-friendly entity, metal minimises energy use, promotes sustainability, and invites innovation and creativity in terms of design. Easily bent and configured to the specific design, it can be used as a lightweight decorative element or as a structural component. Metal roofs and wall panels can also be curved to create a unique and dynamic building appearance, hence amplifying its versatility. Moreover, not only can metal withstand harsh weather environments, it can also resource depletion due to its recyclability. The concept is fast catching up in India, but the changes go beyond skin-deep alterations or a facelift. Besides, metal also offers better function.
Addressing the material palette of metal facades, it is not only interesting, but intriguing to note that the plethora of different materials and cladding systems offer the most potential for innovation. Whether we speak of steel, galvanised steel and aluminium or zinc, copper, and titanium, the most recognisable system that can use almost any material is the ‘standing seam’. Characterised by robust folded connections between each panel, its concealed fixing details allow for sleek architectural exteriors, making it a popular choice across typologies. However, its simpler alternative – the Snaplock displays a similar ribbed profile but does not require specialist closing equipment to install it. As the name suggests, Snaplock panels are designed to “snap” together, offering a low-fuss installation.
For the dramatic express joints, the interlocking system offers a smooth appearance; its rather big plus point being that the cladding panels can vary in width and can be detailed to run horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally. And there are others – the Flatlock and shingle, Cassette and the bespoke systems that can be developed by a specialist manufacturer, altering an existing system, or creating something completely new.
Whilst the deciding factor is always a multitude of project-specific factors, viz., desired aesthetic, climatic conditions, chosen structural system, the nature of adjacent materials and the construction budget, etc., the undeniable bottom line is that metal facades facilitate exploration of form, and derivation of key insights into thermal, daylight and solar performance informing decisions pertaining to the building orientation, solar shading, glazing, etc. The right combination of its various aspects can, not just synthesise an inspirational building exterior, but quantify its utility.
Ar. Sumit Dhawan founded Cityspace’82 in 2005. He is renowned for designing celebrity homes of cricketer Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir and innovates his projects with numerous design styles fusing one into another, delivering impeccable intricate spectacles. Passionately believing in a perfect balance between functionality and form; and adopting a to-and-fro methodology for the same, Sumit ensures a rationalisation of both – the aesthetics and functional regime of every endeavour he outlines. He also believes that a building must speak for itself with its concept, rather than having theoretical philosophy to it.
This empirical and multifaceted design philosophy, coupled with the quality of work, has Sumit invoking his client’s identity through the space. His eclectic facade style has made him a favourite amongst numerous practicing architects. The goal is to continue designing veritable projects and be known for the quality of work in the fraternity and outside. Ar. Sumit Dhawan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Text & Photography Credits: Ar. Sumit Dhawan