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Using a skin graft to give city eyesores an eco-friendly face-lift


February 11, 2010

The Tower Skin concept covers outdated buildings in an eco-friendly cocoon

The Tower Skin concept covers outdated buildings in an eco-friendly cocoon

Image Gallery (8 images)

There’s no doubt fashion is fleeting. What might be the height of fashion today is almost certainly the fashion faux pas of tomorrow. Thankfully, clothes and hairstyles are easy to change and we’re not getting around in leg warmers and new romantic bouffants anymore – well most of us aren’t. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to change the look of a building. What was the pinnacle of architectural design in the '60s is often the eyesore of the skyline today. The Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) proposes a simple, cost effective, easily constructed skin that promises to transform dated structures into sustainable and stunning buildings.

The “Tower Skin” concept is a transparent cocoon made of high performance composite mesh textile that is wrapped around an existing structure to act as a high-performance “micro climate”. Surface tension allows the membrane to freely stretch around walls and roof elements achieving maximum visual impact with minimal material effort. The skin is also easily repairable, is removable and upgradable and features a self-cleaning coating.

It generates energy with photovoltaic cells, collects rainwater, improves day lighting and uses available convective energy to power the towers’ ventilation requirements. Natural convection draws conditioned air through existing rooms and vents it to the exterior to generate energy. The skin is also an intelligent media surface that can be used for dynamic animation and communicating information such as performances and campus events in real time.

The architectural system for re-purposing inefficient and outdated buildings without resorting to demolition and rebuilding began as a speculative proposal by multinational architectural practice, LAVA, for a re-shaping of the University of Technology (UTS) Broadway Tower in Sydney, Australia, which has long been known as Sydney’s ugliest building.

“A re‐skinned UTS Tower could be an example of sustainability, innovation, cutting edge design and creative education, without demolishing and rebuilding the 1960s icon,” said Chris Bosse, Australian director of LAVA.

LAVA says it can also be applied to structural eyesores across the world, singling out the Colliers Wood Building and the Barbican Centre in London, and the post-industrial abandoned buildings across Hong Kong. LAVA has also proposed using the skin concept to transform a much maligned car park in Sydney’s CBD.

The Tower Skin concept design is on display at STATE, RESPOND. Exploring sustainable design, in the Object Gallery in Sydney until March 28, 2010.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Based on the before and after photos, that\'s not an improvement. They just swapped a quiet, conventional kind of ugly for an \"in your face\" ugliness.


the skin is waaaaayyyy uglier than the original skycraper. it looks like bedsheets soiled in some rod bacteria.


it may be ugly but it has alot of promise for sustanability. come on using convection to power air conditioning that also generates energy, collects rain water, and generates power through photovoltaic cells and you can watch cartoons on it. oh and it cleans itself. F@#k what it looks like I want one for my house.


They already do something like this in Hong Kong...except the wrap is not to beautify, but instead catch any debris that may fall from the skyscraper as they refurbish it, so that anything that falls won\'t kill a pedestrian!

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