Lite Notes by Ellen Rogers
by Ellen Rogers
November 26th, 2019

Calling All Troublemakers … Your Help is Needed

If Steve Jobs was alive and wasn’t heading up Apple, imagine if he was leading a company in the facades industry. What do you think he would say to those in his organization? Would he say, “That looks good. Keep doing what you’re doing, just like that.” I doubt it. It would probably be something more like this:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. … the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of the rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Those words opened Apple’s 1997 Think Different campaign. While they may have been in reference to a tech company, they are also relevant to today’s architectural facades industry. In fact, Attila Arian, president of Schuco USA, shared that quote last week during the Zak World of Facades (WOF) conference in New York. And when you think about all the advances, changes and developments this industry is seeing—and the crazy ones, misfits, rebels and troublemakers leading the charge—the quote is spot-on when it comes to the future of facades.

If you’re not familiar with the Zak WOF events, they’re actually quite young, beginning back in 2012. This was the second time the event’s been in New York, but the conference has been held in 31 countries and continues to expand.

The caliber of the speakers and the agenda was impressive. Some of the biggest architecture and design firms globally took part in the program, which focused on expanding façade design through innovative approaches and digital advances—pushing the proverbial building envelope, if you will. Asking the question, what does the future of facades look like?

Dan Kaplan led the presentation “Glass City Versus Mass City” during today’s Zak World of Facades.

One of the big discussion topics centered on the future of high performance buildings, and where glass will fit in to that. Dan Kaplan from FXCollaborative led the session, “Glass City Versus Mass City,” which addressed the initial reaction to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call to “ban” all glass buildings. Another related session was the panel discussion moderated by Christoph Timm from SOM Architects that delved into New York’s Green New Deal.

Christoph Timm with SOM moderated today’s panel discussion addressing the Green New Deal in New York.

Kaplan shared three things he thinks are necessary to continue moving forward with high-performance facades. First, he said, is the need for better glass and frames at a price point that’s acceptable to the marketplace. Second is orientation. “We, as designers, need to get better at tuning our buildings to the environment. We need to develop an aesthetic that deals with the differences in orientation … [use] glass where it counts … where there are views and orientations …”

And third is a change in mindset. “We tend to think of heavy and opaque together … what if we cross pollinate?” he suggested. For example, light and opaque, bringing a sense of light and opacity/mass and solid.

You can read more about his session and the Green New Deal Panel discussion here in our USGNN™ coverage of the event.

Speaking of other future façade trends, the Danish firm BIG has got to be one of the most tuned in to these changes and developments. This team is filled with those misfits and rebels Steve Jobs talked about; they take risks and they’re changing the way we look at architecture.

Kai-Uwe Bergmann, a partner with BIG, spoke on Formgiving: giving form to the future, and shared something his firm calls the BIG LEAP:

  • Landscape
  • Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Products

Kai-Uwe Bergmann with BIG Architects spoke during the Zak World of Facades conference about changes he sees in the future for facades.

Bergmann talked about how his firm incorporates these elements into the projects, such as the Via 57 project in New York.

“You can’t imagine the courtyard without the building and you can’t imagine the building without the courtyard; we call it courtscaping,” he said of the triangulated structure, which features a green courtyard in the center of the building. “The landscape is integral to this design,” he said.

Bergmann told the audience, “The future is around us every single day, it’s about bringing [everything] together and connecting them to the projects we’re working on.”

Read more about Bergmann’s session and more from the Zak WOF conference here.

As you start to think about what’s next, for not only your company, but the entire industry, take a look around at what you’re doing every day. Is it the status quo or are you challenging yourself and your organization to look at things differently? Buildings are going to change and if we want to make sure glass maintains its place on the façade it’s going to have to change, too.

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  1. We’ve attended these in the past and found them helpful in making new connections. Would love to be a speaker on Facade Building Movement Issues or Glazing Engineering Tips sometime. We’re adding many of these events to our travel calendar!

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