Michael Hayes | Elements of Architecture | Façade

I see a lot of new faces around town lately. Some have the look of old souls, the kind that could convince they’ve been there all along. Many others stick out more prominently, not yet settled nor may ever be. In all the change that’s accrued and occurred, from whole street fronts to existing structures remade, the defining difference we all see is the design of a building’s exterior.

Irish architecture is rarely public; the chance to walk in, explore around and experience a space (without invitation or payment) is an event often reserved for one weekend a year. For most of a building’s life then, people’s interaction, understanding, and opinion will be determined in terms of its facade. And sometimes that can be a problem – value judgements may be made skin deep while a list of other issues (both positive and negative) go ignored.

But poorly articulated criticisms should not shield poorly designed architecture, and it still remains the architect’s responsibility to compose elevations that rise above the bland, the indifferent, and the simply ugly. Our streetscapes, landscapes, and public realm are defined, however incidentally, by the walls, windows, and doors that occupy each boundary edge. In doing so, a building reaches beyond the scale of its individual plot and begins to make a polis.

Admittedly, making a facade that achieves these aims isn’t easy. More than ever, the architect is faced with an expanding array of materials and options. In that regard, the Architects’ Choice Award at Architecture and Building Expo can be useful in highlighting the best available products for external finishes. In 2017, the jury selected Benchmark ‘Dri-Design’ by Kingspan as the Best Exterior Product Award winner. ‘Dri-Design’ is a rainscreen cladding that has the advantage of being twice as fast to install as comparable systems, and can either be fixed directly or made to form a ventilated cavity. Flat, tapered, shadow, and perforated versions, alongside a mix of metals, colours, and textures, allow for a range of design choice.

Kingspan will be returning to Architecture and Building Expo 2018 (stands B15 and C10) alongside a range of exterior product specialists. Coatek (stand A11) will be available to discuss their security window film – a useful, clear, scratch-resistant application which prevents broken glass from becoming airborne, reducing risks of injury to occupants and passers-by, as well as damage to property and contents. Meanwhile Sto (stand D24) will be on hand to share their facade expertise, including recent developments in paint technologies such as micro-textured surfaces for a more effective water repellent; natural self-cleaning properties; and darker pigments which can reflect solar energy and protect external wall insulation.

The winner of the Best Exterior Product Award in the Architects’ Choice Awards 2018 will be announced at the show, and this year’s event should prove to be a rare opportunity to discuss the latest products available in the the architecture and construction industry. For more information, please visit where you can sign up to the Architecture and Building Expo newsletter, as well as find additional material on exhibitors, talks, and how to visit.