Circular construction procedures for self-shading façades

The modernist heritage of architectural facades, stressing homogeneous and repetitive elements to deliver aesthetics and concepts, often underestimates the surrounding conditions and contexts. Especially in subtropical areas, glass-curtained façades have become a universal standard to celebrate Euro-American modernism, neglecting local environmental and cultural considerations to tackle climate crises.

ZongRu Wu, a Taiwanese architect based in Rotterdam (NL), establishes new design vocabularies for façades to incorporate considerations of endemic climatic conditions, building materials, and techniques to make architecture more responsive to the urgencies our societies face. His design investigates how various façade forms reduce the energy use of mechanical air cooling by absorbing solar heat. Challenging the current manufacturing limitations of formworks, his design expands the possibilities of concrete structures for sustainable and relational constructions that connect more closely to our environment.

Wu’s design simulates the sun’s trajectories to generate façade geometries of superimposed functional ripples. Such design creates self-shading patterns, turning the passive façade shading into a thermal buffer between the environment and the building. In the first prototype, the 3D-printed mold displays a surface with curving gentle ripples, a translucent wavering formwork. Despite their decorative aesthetics, these curves function to ensure optimal self-shadowing of the surface, thereby cooling the building down.

The complexity of the patterns challenges existing building and material techniques. Traditional techniques limit the use of concrete to reinforced casting in simple volumes, disposing used molds and structures rather than recycling them for other projects. To explore free construction techniques and reduce concrete consumption, Wu’s design uses and reuses 3D-printed PETg molds without losing their material integrity (for a maximum of seven reuse). This way, it maximizes the usage of concrete in architecture and reduces on-site construction waste. Through an optimized combination of shape-forming, material use, and technical requirements, Wu’s design innovates our approaches to the built environment in architectural parametric-modernism.

This design manifests a new attitude toward our environment: it sees the façade as a permeable skin that lowers human impacts on the larger world. Beyond techno-solutionism, it challenges the canons of architecture both in form and construction, suggesting tackling the urgent task of climate change with new form-making technology and creative material uses.

Project credits: ZONGRUWU
Structure engineer: YuChou Chiang
Text by: Maxime Benvenuto
Photo shooting and video editing: Tim van Dortmont
Powered by: The New Raw
Funding by: Taichung Cultural Education Foundation for Architecture