Flare Facades: Modular Kinetic Membranes

16 March 2010 7,826 views 2 Comments

Ever since I saw the movie Office Space, I can’t hear the word “flare” or any of its homophones without thinking of Jennifer Anniston’s waitress uniform and the “pieces of flair” they wanted her to attach to her suspenders.  Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this, but it seems to me that the idea behind wearing the flair (various buttons and patches with funny messages on them – if you haven’t seen this movie please stop reading immediately and rent it) was that it was a chance for people to express some individuality within an otherwise overwhelming, over-branded corporate restaurant environment.  Flair communicates information; at Chotchkie’s it’s a way to express one’s personality (and if one happens become separated from the group, say, at Disneyland – shooting off a flare is a way to indicate one’s present location).  Of course, NOT wearing flair is also a way to express your individuality, but that was lost on Jennifer’s fellow wait-staff. 

Image courtesy k-punk.abstractdynamics.org

WHITEvoid has developed a modular system for building facades that also communicates information, albeit more subtly than through the application of buttons and patches.  “Acting like a living skin, it allows a building to express, communicate and interact with its environment.  FLARE turns the building facade into a penetrable kinetic membrane, breaking with all conventions of the building surface as a static skin” (WHITEvoid.com). 

Image courtesy www.flare-facade.com

A modular array of tiltable “metal flake bodies,” each tilted and adjusted by its own set of pneumatic cylinders, can be mounted on any building or wall surface.  Various surface animations can be programmed into the system, which is controlled by a computer that can also take information from sensor systems inside and outside the building to create patterns.  Think of each flake as a pixel: when in the vertical position, the metal surface of the flake reflects light.  When the computer tells the cylinders to tilt a flake downwards, its face is shaded from the sky light and appears dark. 

Images courtesy www.flare-facade.com

I think it would be interesting to add artificial light to the product (it needs a few more pieces of flair) – but then again I always want to add LED’s to everything, even when it’s not appropriate.  I’m also wondering how CRAZY expensive a facade like this would be – and how have they accounted for maintenance/replacement of parts?


FLARE is metal because it’s a metal skin, but I’m also classifying it as water because it can ripple and move in a watery kind of way.

Special thanks to Nick McWhirter for the heads up – check out his AMAZING photography here:  http://redblank.com/dm

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  • Sam said:

    All those little pistons seem like a maintenance nightmare. I do like the idea of integrating occupancy and light sensors with this inside the building, so the ripple effect would occur if one person walked down the perimeter of the building, for instance. If there were an emergency in the building and people were running all over the place, it would show from the outside, like a big spasm.

  • Scott said:

    The picture reminds me of the back of a Sparklett’s water truck.

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