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Crystal Mesh

Crystal Mesh

Realities United

201 Victoria Street, Singapore | View Map
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Realities United


Ornamental and granulated light and media facade

Realities United as Facade designers

Glittering by day and glowing by night, The Crystal Mesh is a digital facade realized with a tessellated pattern of 3,000 deep-drawn polycarbonate modules. During the day, folded aluminium reflectors in the modules reflect sunlight like a jewel. At night, 1,900 of these modules contain a regular matrix of compact, energy-efficient fluorescent lighting tubes that are illuminated to create abstract digital patterns controlled by custom software.

More from the facade designers: Crystal Mesh is a façade for the building complex “ILUMA” in Singapore. It combines aspects of a conventional curtain façade with those of a light installation or monitor- façade. Crystal Mesh forms the building’s visual hull; the construction-physical functions are carried out by another exterior wall deeper inside.

Crystal Mesh consists of a tessellated pattern made of 3,000 modules of deep-drawn polycarbonate covering a façade area of more than 5,000 m2. About 1,900 of these modules contain a regular matrix of compact fluorescent light tubes forming “active patches” within the façade. At night the light matrix superimposes the idiosyncratic physical structure of the white, crystalline daytime façade. But the irregular arrangement of these patches – dividing the façade into areas with different resolutions – does not create a large, homogeneous screen in front of the building, but instead forms a more general impression of the building’s “media-ness” as a surplus to and an essential ingredient of its architecture.

Conceptually, Crystal Mesh is a “bastard”. Its function and design recall historical ventilation façades, the modular façade designs of the 1960s and 1970s, and the analog light-bulb aesthetic in the entertainment districts of the 20th century. At the same time, it also contains the “futuristic” concept of the monitor as complete substitute for the conventional façade construction: the façade as digital medium. These divergent themes have been put together in a formal design system – not in hegemonial addition, but as a mutual interpenetration, overlaying, and masking, which leads in detail to substantial interference between individual aspects.

The original idea of the commission – the façade as monitor – is simultaneously realized and obstructed by the modular and crystalline façade system. The large-format structure of the polycarbonate crystals can depict only 75 percent of the underlying matrix; the “monitor” is thus “perforated”. In addition, the surface of each individual “pixel” is severely distorted by the modules’ idiosyncratic geometry.

As a whole, therefore, there is no central, high-resolution monitor. Instead, the active light elements are distributed in coherent groups across the entire surface, sometimes at small, sometimes at large intervals. A “normal” depiction of high-resolution motifs cannot provide coherent results in this way. This eschewal of the characteristics of a monitor is balanced by the complex overall effect on the scale of the city. Because the focus of the efforts is not an individual motif in digital staging, but being able to alter the character of the building’s skin and thereby to achieve a dynamic expression of the entire architecture. The central idea of the design is not that of a monitor, but of a façade with changeable expression. Accordingly, the active (night) appearance and the (day) appearance have equal rights in the design. The façade sends light signals during the day, as well: reflections of sunlight in the folded aluminum reflectors of the polycarbonate modules.

Crystal Mesh eludes the problem of competition with ever-better and less-expensive LED facades, which will appear in the future as a part of the city zoned as a new nightlife district. This façade defines a class of its own in distinction from the conventional LED monitors that outdo each other at ever shorter intervals. Its urban scale and idiosyncratic degree of abstraction create an unmistakable expression.


WOHA as Architects

Iluma is an entertainment and retail development, located at the famous Bugis Street area in Singapore, now a designated arts, education and entertainment district. The design contrasts a rectilinear block against a curvaceous sculpted form. The rectilinear element accommodates large, regular components of the car park, retail anchor tenants, cinema and performance spaces, while the curved form accommodates smaller retail and entertainment activities along meandering paths. The dialogue between the two elements is heightened by the architectural treatment, with vibrant hot colours animating the rectilinear block and monochrome shades of grey and white cladding the curvilinear block. Overlooking, overlapping and directing views up, down and across, are strategies throughout the building, inside and outside, to enhance vibrancy, people-watching and excitement.

The building, although contemporary in form, relates in scale and texture to the surrounding neighbourhood. The colourful rectilinear element recalls the brightly painted public housing blocks, while the decorative curvilinear façade translates the varied massing, fine texture, and exuberant, intricately detailed decoration of the historic shophouses into a different expression.

The internal activities are zoned in three strata with interlinked central spaces. The ground floor forms a continuous network with the surrounding streets, drawing in pedestrians from all directions. A pedestrian bridge at the second level flies out across the road to create a link with the neighbouring development. All paths lead to the main atrium, a 40m high space, which is divided horizontally into a lower and upper volume, each with their own character, but visually connected. The atrium is provided with lighting and sound for entertainment events and performances. The lower atrium is focused on smaller, specialized retail, while the upper atrium is surrounded by the entertainment activities. Dividing the two spaces is an urban piazza, floated 20m above the street, populated by bars, games, cinemas and restaurants. The third major space is the rooftop theatre and event space, which opens up to open air lush landscape, roof terraces and café pods – Ibiza meets Bali on the Singapore rooftops. The roof terraces are located around a central glazed skylight, affording views back down into the atrium spaces, and from the atrium up to the planted roof.

In order to achieve the planning authority’s vision of a vibrant nightlife district, and to amplify visibility within the bustling neighbourhood, the project features a custom-designed, artistic Crystal Mesh media façade composed of faceted jewel-like fixtures that glitter in the day and glow in the night. The crystal media façade was conceived and developed in close cooperation with Berlin based artists and architects realities:united, and features simple energy-saving bulbs in a custom designed reflector, controlled by a custom designed software. The façade is treated as stacked, undulating strips that overlap and recede, the interstitial spaces forming gardens and terraces overhanging the street. The neighbourhood art institutions have been engaged to assist in ongoing curating and award programs to produce content to animate the façade, and an on-going series of exhibitions and events will showcase the work of local art, architecture and design students.

The crystal media façade is a three dimensional canvas on which media artists, art students and even the public can apply fast moving, legible images, text and graphics and architectural treatments, all at the scale of a city block. Over time, this will build a sense of ownership by the surrounding creative community, supporting the events and activities within the development, and making iluma more than just a retail space – it is hoped it will become a true urban place. In the modern city, the urban fabric is controlled by the authorities, developers and construction industry, a power remote from the man on the street. Iluma has the new and exciting potential to give ordinary citizens the opportunity to impact their surroundings at an urban scale.

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Product Spec Sheet

polycarbonate shellsBorsi
ClientJack Investment
ManufacturersMillion Lighting Company Pte Ltd
control technologySE Light Management
Product Spec Sheet
polycarbonate shells
by Borsi
control technology
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