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Xiqu Façade

Bing Thom Architects November 8, 2017
Material Assemblies

Influenced by the sense of movement of both the Xiqu art form as well as chi that is embodied in traditional Chinese culture, the design of center took on a curvilinear form in plan, section, and elevation.

Conceptually the building’s facade is imagined as a beaded curtain, akin to the type often used in traditional opera. Similar to stage curtains, the façade’s geometry begins straight at the top and is strategically pulled open at various locations. Across middle of the elevations openings materialize as light boxes showcasing abstract art works derived from Xiqu costumes providing an abstract glimpse of the activity within. At grade all four corners of the façade curtain are pulled open creating theatrical entrances that capture the pedestrian flow from both the adjoining sites as well as the surrounding neighborhoods.

In searching for façade materials, as in most of our projects, we prefer to use materials that will weather over time developing a natural patina. After first considering copper, we determined that untreated marine grade aluminum would be the best choice for the project requirements both esthetically and performance wise. To create the effect of curtain, and movement in the façade we looked at a number of fabrication methods. In order to achieve a cost effective treatment for the façade we developed a modular system of shaped curved forms. Bifurcated from a single straight hollow aluminum extrusion mirrored elements approximately 2.5 meters long were fabricated. By using this process we are able to use 100% of the material, no off cuts. Only after extensive digital and physical modeling using in-house 3D printers, were we able to achieve the curtain effect using these straight modular sections.

Façade mockup: Visual and performance mockup were created to test design and approach for this unusual aluminum treatment.

wichianduangsri / Getty Images