Building trend: the future of the intelligent façade is written with copper

Is the dynamic facade on its way to becoming the major architectural trend of the end of the decade? In this small revolution, copper stands out. In the form of copper sails or strips, dynamic façades are capable of better managing the input of light or heat and improving the energy performance of buildings. In the form of a raw surface that takes on a patina over time, the facade gives life to the building and becomes the key to its environmental integration.
From Norway to Italy via Switzerland and France, here is a European tour of intelligent architecture, which is distinguished by its dynamic copper facade.
Photo: Maison Dumont in Geneva © Joël Tettamanti
Durable, malleable, evolutionary, copper is a material of choice for architects who innovate to design functional cladding. Historically used for the roofs of religious buildings or major monuments such as the Garnier Opera House, copper is now being rediscovered by contemporary architecture. The jurors of the European Copper in Architecture Awards 2017 can testify to this underlying trend: four of the eight finalist buildings in this European architectural award for copper have dynamic façades. These no longer merely act as an envelope.

How copper is contributing to the dynamic facade revolution

To respond to changes in urban life - organizational, technological and societal - architects and urban planners are innovating. Allowing modern buildings to interact with the environment, and limiting the use of artificial lighting or heating, they are also developing new ways of using energy-efficient technologies. dynamic copper façades regulate ventilation, light or transparency, and create new visual effects.
Copper and its alloys allow great architectural creativity. They are materials of choice for creating functional facades: easy to install, easy to shape, malleable... Copper sheets are light, easy to work and assemble, aesthetic and extremely durable. Copper cladding is resistant to air and humidity and guarantees a long life for buildings, without maintenance. A wide range of finishes is available: smooth and bright, perforated, embossed, pure or in alloy form, rough or pre-patinated. This last solution makes it possible to exploit the wide range of colours offered by the natural oxidation process of red metal, from the moment of installation and for a long time.

Discover five dynamic and functional copper façades

The Hydropolis Centre in Poland: copper and water façades
Hydropolis Park, Wroclaw, Poland.
Fountains are hidden behind the copper façade to create a play of water and light.
Michal Lagoda

In the Polish city of Wroclaw, the ART FM firm has transformed a remarkable 19th century reservoir into a theme park dedicated to water and named Hydropolis. This rehabilitation features a new copper façade and an innovative sculpture called "water printer". Copper, with its strong visual character and aesthetic appeal, underscores the beauty of the historic building, while giving the extension a very contemporary look.
Pre-oxidized copper is used for the roof and facade of the new annex, as well as for the sliding perforated panels. It will oxidize naturally and its colour will approximate that of brick masonry. The "water printer" sculpture consists of twelve fountains hidden behind the copper façade.
Sun and water penetrate through the irregular openings of the perforated copper panels and create a unique play of light and reflections, intensifying the perception of space in the hall. This project is one of the of finalists of the 18th edition of the European Copper in Architecure Awards, the results of which will be announced in September.
The drum square in Norway: brass and lights!
The copper drum is enthroned above one of the city's largest squares.
Mathias Herzog

This curious copper drum floating above the town square in Trondheim, Norway is worth a visit: thanks to the different perforated and patinated copper coatings, the colour of the awning changes throughout the day. The green patina that can be seen during the day is transformed in the evening by the light coming from the inner circle and reflected by the copper screen. Thus, this copper drum blends in perfectly with its surroundings - unobtrusive by day, with a natural appearance, it lights up at night thanks to an energy-saving system.
The cylinder consists of different copper coatings.
Mathias Herzog           
The cylinder consists of three layers: a reflective inner surface, an intermediate screen of natural copper, and an outer coating of hand-patinated green copper. The two copper layers are perforated to allow light to penetrate during the day and to produce light at night thanks to LED lighting. This realization is also finalist of the 18th European Copper in Architecure Awards.
The Maison Dumont in Geneva: a copper window to avoid the opposite side of the house
Copper roofing is used throughout the entire construction.
© Joël Tettamanti

In the heart of the old town of Geneva, la Maison Dumont is a very contemporary building signed by the Meyer Architects and whose copper facades modulate according to the light. The roof, also made of copper, is declined on the whole construction and brings light into the backyard of two historical buildings that were lacking until then.
The copper slats can be modulated like blinds to avoid facing each other.
© Joël Tettamanti

At the penthouse level, a skylight made of copper slats avoids the opposite sides. Thanks to the malleability of the copper, the slats have been folded on their diagonal and can be modulated like blinds: they veil the façade over its entire length, creating a play of light and transparency. The occupants of the apartment thus gain privacy without losing any of the light.
The renovated barn of Sesto san Giovanni: copper shutters against sun and rain
Housing operation in an old farmhouse, Sesto san Giovanni, Italy.
Simone Bossi

A large barn in ruins located in Sesto san Giovanni, near Milan, has been renovated by the law firm Studio Roberto Mascazzini Architetto so that six single-family dwellings can be set up there.
The renovated barn houses six individual dwellings.
Simone Bossi

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The bricks and porphyry that made up the roof and floor of the old barn were reused for the new building, in order to preserve the historic frame material.
The dynamic copper façades can be modulated to protect against sun and rain.
Simone Bossi

To add a touch of modernity, the architects clad each of the six houses with dynamic copper façades, whose shutters can be adjusted to protect against sun and rain. This minimalist architectural achievement makes gutters or window sills unnecessary. It is a finalist for the European Copper in Architecure Awards.
The Debussy Conservatory: a perforated copper façade to illuminate the artists
The Debussy Conservatory is an architectural landmark in the heart of the 17th arrondissement.
Sergio Grazzia

Designed by the French firm Basalt Architecture, the Conservatoire Claude Debussy, is located in the heart of the 17th arrondissement of Paris.
Thanks to the movable façade, the light inside the building remains bright.
 Sergio Grazzia

Its perforated copper façade animates the building day and night, in a ballet of light and shadow. The perforations drawn on each copper shutter act as a solar filter, necessary for the comfort of the artists and their audience. From the patio to the lower levels, light penetrates the heart of the building thanks to this system of copper shutters.              
Perforated and movable shutters allow the brightness to be adjusted for the comfort of the artists.
Sergio Grazzia

Thanks to this original architectural choice, the National Municipal Conservatory of Music, Dance and Dramatic Arts, in dialogue with the city - its copper skin making the building a landmark in the heart of the most traditional Haussmann-style buildings. Its copper facade will long protect this place of artistic creation: the red metal, weather-resistant and requiring no maintenance, gradually takes on a patina. An evolution to be discovered on the site

My House Deserves Copper is a European information campaign dedicated to the applications of copper in the home. Launched in September 2011, its aim is to make end-users aware of the benefits of copper.


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