10 Fascinating Parametric Facade Design Projects From Around The World

Thet Hnin Su Aung

8.5 mins read

July 02

Exterior view of Museo Soumaya museum in Mexico City
Parametric modelling has created wonders in the past few decades with fluid forms and biomimetic designs, so much so that most people associate parametric modelling or design with projects like Galaxy Soho or Museum Of the Future. Parametric modelling can create even the most intricate elements of architecture, including facades and furniture.

If you are thinking of projects by Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry in association with parametric modelling, do keep reading, to see how architects have designed numerous facades (many of them being non-organic forms of buildings!) using parametric modelling

What is Parametric Modelling?

Parametric modelling is a 3D modelling technique based on the computational manipulation of geometry. The style created using such a modelling technique is called parametric design. With tools like Rhino and Grasshopper or Dynamo in Revit, architects can design parametrically – from jewellery and furniture to facade, and of course, a whole building.

Best Parametric Facade Design Projects Worldwide

1. Museo Soumaya

people sitting on the stair leading to the entrance of Museo Soumaya museum

The entrance to the museum

A museum and art gallery, Museo Soumaya in Mexico by FREE is one of the iconic examples of a parametric facade. The avant-garde design set itself apart from the buildings nearby in an asymmetrical organic shape. The nearly opaque envelope acts as a protective shell to the exhibits inside and the facade clad in over ten thousand hexagonal aluminium panels creates an attractive visual that appears different depending on the weather and direction of view.

2. Beijing Greenland Centre

Exterior elevation of Beijing Greenland Centre

Beijing Greenland Centre

Located in the business district of Beijing, the centre is a mixed-use urban development by SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill). The design prioritized sustainability and the facade is one of its elements to enhance environmental performance. The trapezoidal glass curtain clads the 55-story tower in repeating modules that provide both self-shading and striking aesthetics. These modules are created based on a series of computational analyses for an environmentally responsive design.

The form is simple, and yet with a play of daylight, it invigorates the surrounding environment.

3. Broad Museum

Exterior elevation of The Broad museum showing the entrance corners

The Broad at LA

The porous parametric facade structure, dubbed the veil, envelopes this contemporary art museum, by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, while allowing the natural daylight to diffuse through. This structure is lifted off at the corners, like a veil opening, to receive the visitors into the lobby and shop at each corner. The architects employed the veil and vault concept where the veil is the exterior structure that wraps around the vault, the interior space shaped with heavy opaque mass from entry to exit.

4. Kolding University Campus

Elevation showing the entrance and the kinetic triangular modules

Kolding campus building

Designed by Henning Larsen Architects, Kolding University campus is a state-of-the-art learning facility and one of the first low-energy universities in the world. Its shape and other characteristics promote sustainability through passive design. The facade is a perfect example of such design; it is made to be kinetic and responsive to heat and light. The triangular modules, made of perforated steel, change throughout the day and year to provide optimal daylight and indoor conditions. This mechanism is directed by sensors fitted in the solar shading system to regulate these shutters according to the heat and daylight conditions.

5. Al-Bahar Tower

A close-up shot of the facade and the sketch and origami folding of the lattice pattern

The lattice pattern of Al-Bahar Tower

The parametric facade design for Al Bahar Tower, by Aedas Architects, is a direct response to the extreme weather and environmental conditions of Abu Dhabi. Inspired by Masharabiya - a traditional Islamic lattice shading system – the facade was developed parametrically to respond to the sun exposure and angles through the year and installed as a curtain wall which can open and close accordingly. The mechanized triangular modules are coated with fibreglass to reduce glare and solar gain, thus reducing the need for air conditioning.

6. Bund Finance Center

The entrance view of the art and culture centre as seen from across the road

The art and cultural centre of Bund Finance Centre

A joint design project by Foster + Partners and Heatherwick Studio, the Bund Finance Centre is a large-scale mixed-use development in Shanghai. The art and cultural centre at the centre of this development is a striking visual attraction with a moving veil as the facade design– a three-layers structure of tassels of various lengths made of aluminium alloy – which transforms the visual effects with the movement of each layer.

7. Elbphilharmonie

Elbphiharmonie building against the background of the river and harbour

Elbphiharmonie buiding

The awkward form of the superstructure along with the glass facade definitely makes Elbphilharmonie conspicuous against the harbour in Hamburg, Germany. It does fulfil the architect’s (Herzog & de Meuron) dream to design a building that serves its functions as a mixed-use project while garnering the attention of the public.

What makes this bizarre facade also compelling? The structure sits on top of the older warehouse-like building, made of brick in a regular geometry.

Many of the glass panels are curved, some having openings which are carved out of these panels, and together they create an iridescent illusion affected by the light, the surrounding water, the sky and the city itself.

8. KAFD Metro Station

Architectural visualisation of KAFD Metro Station in Riyadh

KAFD Metro Station

A list of parametric facades, or any parametric element, won’t be complete without a project from Zaha Hadid Architects. The KAFD Metro Station in Riyadh is a great example of what parametric design can achieve in facade design. The futuristic dune-like facade is an extension of the wavy steel skeleton spine. The overall pattern is a representation of the sand dunes formation by desert winds. Being aesthetically pleasing is not its function; some 600 feet long facade is engineered to reduce solar gain and cool the interiors by regulating the air currents.

9. Mediopadana Building

The wavy facade of Mediopadana station

The Mediopadana station

The Mediopadana station in Reggio Emilia, Italy shows us how parametric modelling can work with both straight lines and curves simultaneously. Designed by Calatrava, the parametric facade design is generated through a system of succession and repetition – 25 steel portal frames placed about a meter apart creating a long module which is repeated, spanning 483 meters in total. The form generated by the wavy floor plan and elevations is a sinusoidal volume or the form of the sine curve.

10. One Kleomenous

The entrance and the layers of marble facade of One Kleomenous building

One Kleomenous Residence

One Kleomenous is the first official project of the firm Omniview. Located in Athens, it is a private residence designed with cutting-edge construction techniques for bespoke beauty and functionality. The facade design was inspired by the topographic map of Lycabettus, a hill that sits in the vicinity. The material used was marble to reflect the beige stones of the retaining walls at the hill and also the Acropolis. Over 2000 pieces of CNC-cut marble were assembled on-site to create a layered appearance.

The advance in computational design technology has broadened the scope of parametric modelling and design. It is no longer considered new technology, but to explore the extent of their creativity.

Interested to do the same? Join Novatr’s Parametric Modelling Course and learn this advanced modelling methodology, along with design thinking, using Rhino and Grasshopper. Stand out among your peers with unique designs in your portfolio and win better opportunities for your career.

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