Elevating a facade theory into practice

  • Mary Ben Bonham


This paper draws connections between building enclosure technologies from the time of Le Corbusier’s mur neutralisant and respiration exacte concepts to a present-day double-skin glass fagade system, the closed cavity fagade (CCF). The successes and failures of Le Corbusier’s thermally controlled interior and hermetically sealed wall concepts are examined as they were applied to Villa Schwob (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland,1916), Centrosoyuz (Moscow, Russia, 1928), and the Salvation Army Building in its originally built form (1933). Building on this historical context, the paper discusses facade technologies that emerged in 1980s and 1990s that sought to improve upon the performance of sealed glazing by eliminating condensation, improving thermal comfort and integrating solar control: the ventilated double-skin facade and the less widely discussed fagade pressurisee (pressurized facade) and facade respirante (breathable facade). The facade technologies are elaborated upon in the cases of the French National Library (1989-1995) and the Grenoble Law Court (1994-2002) where facades were fabricated by French manufacturer Rinaldi-Structal. In these projects, non-standard building technologies were developed and applied through the aggregate efforts of French government research labs, manufacturers, architects, and insurers. Today, breathable facade technology is largely limited to use in France; each application receives technical review by a state agency during the design phase. On the other hand, pressurized facade technology has spread to other parts of Europe and beyond under the name CCF. Innovative forms of CCF developed by Gartner/Permasteelisa, based on initial experimentation in coordination with a German research institute, continue to push the performance envelope: CCF with facade-integrated ventilating floor slots (Roche Diagnostics, Rotreuz, Switzerland, 2011), CCF with operable windows (LEO Building, Frankfurt, Germany, 2013), CCF with wooden louvers in the cavity (EY Center, Sydney, Australia, 2014), CCF with tilted exterior faces (JTI Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland, 2015). The built works and the threads of technological development between them are identified as applied research that bridges between theory and practice.

How to Cite
Bonham, M. (2019). Elevating a facade theory into practice. ARCC Conference Repository, 1(1). Retrieved from https://www.arcc-repository.org/index.php/repository/article/view/666