"The new design adopts the cantilever structure featuring “vault-umbrella” with independent walls while the shear walls with free layout are embedded into the original basement so as to be concreted with the original framework structure. With the shear walls, the first underground floor of the original parking has been transformed to an exhibition space with the overground space highlighting multiple orientations because of the relative connection of the “vault-umbrella” at different directions; besides, the electrical & mechanical system has been integrated in the “vault-umbrella” structure. As to the overground space covered by the “vault-umbrella”, the walls and the ceiling feature as-cast-finish concrete surface so that their geometrical dividing line seems faint. Such structure cannot only shield the human body in conformation but visually echoes with the Coal-Hopper-Unloading-Bridge at the wharf. Moreover, the building’s internal space can also represent a kind of primordial and tameless charm while the spatial dimension, large or small, and the as-cast-finish concrete surface with the seam among moulding boards and the bolt holes bring a sense of reality as well. The directness and simplicity resulting from this “literal” structure, material and space plus the sense of force or lightness because of large-scale overhanging style enables the overall building’s continuation of the industrial property of the original site, not only in time but in space."
Jean Nouvel’s Responsive Solar Facade at Institut du Monde Arabe
In the early eighties famed architect Jean Nouvel, in conjunction with Architecture-Studio, won the competition to design what would become the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA). It was conceived during the Grands Projets, a major development initiative headed by the French government, as a forum to explore the relationship of the Arab culture with France. Jean Nouvel, known for his innovative façade detailing, proposed an advanced responsive metallic brise soleil based on an archetypal element of Arabic architecture, the mashrabiyya. Drawing inspiration from the traditional lattice work that has been used for centuries in the Middle East to protect the occupants from the sun and provide privacy, Nouvel created a modular system of mechanized panels that could react dynamically to changing sunlight. Each made of several hundred light sensitive diaphragms, the panels could sensitively regulate the amount of light allowed to enter the building. During the various phases of the lens, a shifting geometric pattern of squares, circles, and octagons are formed and showcased as both light and void. As a result, the IMA’s interior spaces are dramatically modified, along with the exterior appearance, throughout the day. While these ocular devices create an incredible aesthetic, they are perhaps most innovative for their environmental performance. Since solar gain is easily mitigated by closing or reducing the aperture sizes, the building can be climate controlled efficiently without relying on energy-intensive air conditioning systems. Though completed almost three decades ago, the building remains a powerful example of alternative ways of imagining an “ecological” and culturally-aware architecture.