Breathing Skins Showroom

Breathing Skins Showroom

Mandelbachtal, Germany

Engineer: Dipl.-Ing. Tobias Becker

The essential function of architecture is to draw a protective line to nature. Breathing Skins searches for simple technical solutions for a healthier room climate and a new spatial experience. The initially separating building’s envelope turns into an adaptive media of exchange, able to climatically dissolve the border between inside and outside.

The showroom indicates that polycarbonate sheets in architecture can be more than just a transparent glazing. Their great mechanical property and workability in bending and milling offer to integrate adjustable functions for future buildings of any utilisation, that response to the user’s changing need.
From the beginning, architecture isolates humans from the rigors of nature and strangers. Recent trends of energetic more efficient building systems force this shielding. Highly insulating building materials have been synthesized in energetic extensive processes by non-renewable resources. Hermetic secluded rooms ask for intelligent building automation to mechanically control room-temperature, air change per hour and relative humidity. The project Breathing Skins doesn’t understand indoor as an anthropogenic enclave with artificial climate, instead as a part of the outdoor and the climate of the natural environment. The inspiration for a new room experience comes from conveying the qualities of the exterior into future working and living spaces. A new responsive architecture, that changes locally the permeability for air, light, and views, could precisely alter the space to the user’s changing needs and habits.

The Breathing Skins technology is based on the idea of a skin that breathes through adjustable air channels. These channels can be closed pneumatically through the application of air pressure within the facade. On every square meter, 140 air channels are controlled without any visible technical installations. An air change rate of 13 per hour is feasible without any undesirable airdrafts. As the pneumatic muscles are just 0.2mm thin, the deformation processes, operated by a pneumatic actuator, require minimal energetic input. Slight under pressure opens the pneumatic muscles that are joined reversibly between two multi-perforated polycarbonate sheets and can be separately dismantled and recycled. The more they widen, the more the appearance of the facade changes.
In the Breathing Skins showroom the Breathing Skins technology can be experienced and tested under realistic conditions. The facade’s soft and fluent shape mirrors an organic skin. It amount a length of over ten meter and an area of 25 m². Geometrically, its layout is determined by six circular segments with different radii. To achieve the appearance of a continuous skin, all constructive parts are assembled by polycarbonate. The facade is separated into 14 curved elements including one door element without pneumatic muscles. The facade elements are built as sandwich construction with less than 11kg/m². A frame, two perforated sheets and stabilising pipes serve for full stability under loads. Pipes and air channels are arranged in overlapping triangular grids of different scale, that result in the facade‘s characteristic pattern. Around 2800 air channels are integrated into the facade and demonstrate the impact of both translucent and opaque pneumatic muscles.