When building facades are more than ten stories tall, overall patterning strategies are required to control the surface composition and negotiate between the scale of window and wall components and the overall mass. Since the students in my housing studio at Northeastern University are grappling with facades that are between fifteen and twenty-five stories tall, I have had to theorize, if provisionally, about strategies for conceiving of the compositional framework. Here are six general approaches:
Daily News Building, New York, Raymond Hood
Vertical bias – wall segments between windows are emphasized with pilaster-like vertical bands.
The McGraw-Hill Building by Raymond Hood
Horizontal bias – alternating horizontal zones of spandrel and windows. The window zone can either be a continuous ribbon window or a zone of windows and darker wall panels that contrast with the spandrels above and below.
Seagram Building, New York, Mies van der Rohe
The balanced grid – Vision glass and spandrel panels are differentiated but the proportion of vertical mullions and horizontal subdivisions are calibrated with the overall proportion of the building to create a balanced composition.
I-J Tower in Amsterdam by Neutelings Riedijk
Shipping and Transport College, Rotterdam, Neutelings and Riedijk
The checkerboard – a pattern generated by contrasting windows, wall panels, and spandrel panels. Balconies are often implicated in the pattern-making strategy.
Porter House Condominiums, New York, Shop
The pixilated surface – a smaller-scale overall pattern is used to camouflage windows and emphasize the overall mass of the building.
Hancock Building, Boston, Harry Cobb
The monolith – dimensional and functional cues are eliminated by using a single grid for both windows and spandrels and through the use of reflective glass. Hints of the intermediate scale of floor levels and/or structural bays have been eliminated so that the overall sculptural form of the building is emphasized.
Next – Big Façade Theory Part II: introducing an intermediate scale through the use of super-grids, punch-outs, and mega-bays