LAVA: tower skin
LAVA: tower skin LAVA: tower skin
feb 09, 2010

LAVA: tower skin

‘tower skin’ by LAVA




international architectural firm LAVA has developed a simple, cost effective, easily constructed skin that promises to transforms aged 1960’s buildings in sydney, into sustainable, iconic buildings.


‘a speculative project, ‘tower skin’ for the university of technology (UTS) broadway tower in sydney, australia offers a unique opportunity to transform the identity, sustainability and interior comfort of the once state of the art building.‘ chris bosse australian director of LAVA.

close up of the UTS building with ‘tower skin’




‘tower skin’ is a transparent cocoon that acts as a high performance ‘micro climate’. it generates energy with photo voltaic cells, collects rain water, improves day lighting and uses available convective energy to power the towers’ ventilation requirements. the tower is wrapped with three dimensional lightweight, high performance composite mesh textile. surface tension allows the membrane to freely stretch around walls and roof elements achieving maximum visual impact with minimal material effort.

illuminated in the evening





‘the reskinning technology could be easily applied to other buildings in need of a facelift such as the colliers wood building and the barbican centre in london and the post industrial abandoned buildings across hong kong. we can quickly and cheaply enhance their performance and aesthetics through this minimal intervention.’


sustainability is at the heart of the project. innovations include: – existing solar energy used to off set energy requirements – water collected from the atmosphere – energy peaks removed via ‘microclimate’ in tower envelope – natural convection draws conditioned air through existing rooms, vent to the exterior to generate energy – localized user control of air and temperature – standard computer designed and generated components manufactured off site and cutting edge digital workflow mean cost effective fabrication and installation time – a solar powered light and media strategy embedded into the fabric

the UTS tower skin during the day

view from above

‘reskinning’ applied to goulburn st parking, in sydney


plans for ‘tower skin’ are on display at ‘state.respond’ exploring sustainable design object gallery, sydney now until 28th march, 2010

  • bad first year project

    concern says:
  • you can put lipstick on a pig…

    ad says:
  • I’m from Sydney and I know these buildings firsthand…they really are an eyesore for this pretty city. The architects have done a great job with this structure to give the tower some character, I hope it goes ahead.

    Anthony R. says:
  • I agree with you Anthony….the UTS building is a horrible eyesore, so I commend any attempt to disguise its ugliness!
    So no need for ‘concern’….to be so concerned!

    Antix says:
  • Really, really ahead of its time. Far too bold of a visual.
    The energy saving aspects of this design are amazing though.

    Wjd says:
  • what happens to natural ventilation??

    ronch says:
  • i take it you are all easily impressed first year students!!!!!

    concern says:
  • “international architectural firm LAVA has developed a simple, cost effective, easily constructed skin that promises to transform aged 1960’s buildings in Sydney, into sustainable, iconic buildings.” . . .

    Went to website and blog and could find no info on stated “skin”. Therein lie many querys. Looks adventurous and would certainly change the look d;-)

    Jetwax says:
  • Hmm…Im concerned about ‘concern’. I think he/she is a tad over critical and not a happy blogger!!! : )

    Antix says:
  • thanks Antix for caring….. just think the scheme lacks any detail, when you watch the video structure and connection point is a bit of a joke, then the natural ventilation, coolling bit also doesnt work, and besides a couple of buildings in sydney this actually works as a beacon and to wrap it in some non imaginative skin, ruins a good representation of brutalist architecture.

    just question why young practices publish poor projects like this, it doesnt help there reputation.

    concern says:
  • Just an initially scheme. For me, I don’t think it will work well. Additional “skin” on existing facade will only create another problem but not solving the problem. Hopefully, they can work out more to improve it. 😉

    JYchee says:
  • url=

    Too often, “smart Buildings” are dumb because when one system fails, the others follow.

    Aggressive energy conservation without an increase in productivity, safety and personal comfort, are not an improvement. People will always find ways of circumventing unwanted or impractical restrictions.

    Gersil N. Kay, IESNA says:
  • What a Bad idea. Another banal attempt to transform ours cities in Disney worlds. All equal. All full of kitsch objects, instead of buildings — cities for ‘Blinds’ and lazy.
    Grow-up, disney worlds are for kids.
    Save it for middle east, ‘HIP’, ‘TRENDY ‘, asexual, new rich, or ‘insecure’ countries. For places where knowledges and culture does not exist and ‘difference’ is the only value.
    We don’t want ours cities to be a Chill out room with sweet electric music.
    Be mature, be calm, be wise, simple and economic. It worked for centuries.

    Tiago says:
  • Tiago, I couldn’t agree more. Don’t worry though, the period when ‘Media Architects’ like LAVA, BIG, MAD (is it a coincidence they all use screaming capital letters in their practice name?) were allow to build by ‘easy finance’ Clients has fortunately come to an end, sensationalist unsubstantial architecture is in retreat.

    ntulnz says:
  • I was in Sidney only once. But I say to you: UTS is the most beautiful building in the Sydney skyline.
    No ‘Skin’, no make-up, no disguise. All the building is character, showing material, truth and skeleton. Almost contemporary. Still innovative.
    I can understand that probably it needs to be retouch. The concrete, the frames and facade metal works should have a old patine. To hard for uncultivated people. Probably they need to be painted and retouched at ground level, but that should be it. Still I say the beauty of it is that he is the opposite of what is done today.
    Is enough to open any swiss good architecture literature, (or to go there an see any atelier 5 or Corbusier Building) or any contemporary lifestyle magazine ( if you are not an architect) like Wallpaper or Monocle to understand that the acceptance of this buildings are already coming back.
    For Sustainability you just have to wait. Just give common peoples’ taste some time and that building will turn into a classical. All around the world You can fill it already: Brutalism was big, edgy, really short in time, and a good and optimist period in architecture and cities history. Equivalente to ‘Construtivist’ period in the beginning of the century. Who would dare today to say we should demolish any Lissitzky, Melnikov or Lubetkin Building?

    Tiago says:
  • dont like at all, too gimicky and cartoon like.

    on a side not, tiago if you have to refer to asexual, insecure, rich, please be more specific than just the ‘middle east’. just shows how uncultured you are yourself.

    sarah says:
  • no windows no cool bad idea.

    yep says:
  • ITS BRILLIANT!!!! Some people just can’t stand anything new and revoluctionary.

    mill mari says:
  • its a good idea in principle, but will probably never see light of day.. Sydney is far too conservative to have this sort of project go ahead. Visually its a bit ‘whatever’, but so long as the science backing it up can be substantiated then i give it a thumbs up. For the cork-sniffers out there, welcome to the future of building; retro fitting old stuff, and building new stuff that has a 30 year or less programmed life span; disposable buildings. The era of sensationalist architecture may have come to a premature end, but due to the profession’s complacency in defining the true role of the architect, they’re all just glorified product designers and develomental whipping-boys (and girls!) now anyway; the former reciprocating this LAVA proposal.

    haus says:
  • Flexible transparent plastic skins will not last… remember the pool at the Chinese Olympics.. they were patching it up even before they started.. the manufacturers only guarantee for a few years at that.. photovoltaics so inefficient 10% to start 50% battery charge 50% discharge.. plastic degrades to 80% transmission in 2 years.. thermal convection stack effect means a hothouse… another sham like global warming and carbon footprinting.

    John Halldane says:
  • Metaphors come to mind… “jolly green giant punching its way out of a plastic bag”, “enbalmer’s folly”, “history trying to escape a future”, “extinction by suffocation”, “urban shroud”, “recycling bag”… come on you cartoonists, can we better the “mating turtles” for the Sydney Opera House cover Arch in Austr.

    We had architectural science, construction, services,… in our training but now the so called “designers” have degraded a purposeful living architecture to pseudoscience with many textbooks and research papers that are selfevidently untrue. I have over 100 publications trying to correct these things. Same goes for the global warming, CO2 pollution!!! (we breathe it to live) and carbon footprinting garbage. Remember the old idiom “form follows function” or “express the materials/ structure/ use/… as they are”. We were supposed to design with a lasting economy of expression, means, operation and maintenance for OUR clients (not us). This was my professional understanding as a FRAIA.

    John Halldane says:

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