There’s no doubt fashion is fleeting. What might be the height of fashion today is almost certainly the fashion faux pas of tomorrow. Thankfully, clothes and hairstyles are easy to change and we’re not getting around in leg warmers and new romantic bouffants anymore – well most of us aren’t. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to change the look of a building. What was the pinnacle of architectural design in the '60s is often the eyesore of the skyline today. The Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) proposes a simple, cost effective, easily constructed skin that promises to transform dated structures into sustainable and stunning buildings.

The “Tower Skin” concept is a transparent cocoon made of high performance composite mesh textile that is wrapped around an existing structure to act as a high-performance “micro climate”. Surface tension allows the membrane to freely stretch around walls and roof elements achieving maximum visual impact with minimal material effort. The skin is also easily repairable, is removable and upgradable and features a self-cleaning coating.

It generates energy with photovoltaic cells, collects rainwater, improves day lighting and uses available convective energy to power the towers’ ventilation requirements. Natural convection draws conditioned air through existing rooms and vents it to the exterior to generate energy. The skin is also an intelligent media surface that can be used for dynamic animation and communicating information such as performances and campus events in real time.

The architectural system for re-purposing inefficient and outdated buildings without resorting to demolition and rebuilding began as a speculative proposal by multinational architectural practice, LAVA, for a re-shaping of the University of Technology (UTS) Broadway Tower in Sydney, Australia, which has long been known as Sydney’s ugliest building.

“A re‐skinned UTS Tower could be an example of sustainability, innovation, cutting edge design and creative education, without demolishing and rebuilding the 1960s icon,” said Chris Bosse, Australian director of LAVA.

LAVA says it can also be applied to structural eyesores across the world, singling out the Colliers Wood Building and the Barbican Centre in London, and the post-industrial abandoned buildings across Hong Kong. LAVA has also proposed using the skin concept to transform a much maligned car park in Sydney’s CBD.

The Tower Skin concept design is on display at STATE, RESPOND. Exploring sustainable design, in the Object Gallery in Sydney until March 28, 2010.

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