Umbrella Facade

Designed with 3GATTI, Shanghai, 2013

A new facade for the ex Madrid Pavilion in the Shanghai Expo site

After the 2010 Shanghai expo the Madrid pavilion needed to be renovated and transformed into a commercial building with retail and office functions. The old facade was built around a 1.5m wide terrace all around the building with bamboo louvers mounted on folding steel frames. In 2012 the bamboo got rotten and the frames rusted so the Shanghai Expo Bureau decided to replace the old bamboo skin with a new facade that could work in the same way: allow the people to open or close the shades so to protect glass facade from the sun in summer and allow more light in during the winter. We were commissioned to find an eye-catching concept that can follow those functions but also attract more people in the new commercial area.

If you visit China one of the first surprise you will find is that most of the women protect themselves from the sun using umbrellas and here actually rains most of the time they don’t mind to get wet without any protection. So when they asked us to protect a building in China from the sun this idea came up spontaneously: an umbrella facade.

The idea was to make each umbrella able to be con-trolled by a pulley to allow people to interact with it. Apart from the pulley the rest of the mechanism is identical to the one of the umbrella with the only difference that the mechanical parts are made of stainless steel, the frames of aluminum and the external surface of thin corten.

When the umbrellas are fully opened the facade is completely flat so that most of the sunlight and strong wind is blocked. If the umbrellas are opened the light is able to come fully inside and the umbrella sticks become at-tractive star-sticks with an aerodynamic shape not resistant to the wind preventing structural tensions in case of typhoons.