As we become more aware that times are changing constantly, architecture becomes more and more versatile. Users demand environments with the capacity to adapt to whichever circumstance, and flexibility is now a premise with which every designed element has to engage. Conversations about modern cities in the 21st century, focus on getting smarter by being filled with sensors that predict our experience in it in order to adjust itself to its citizens. At a smaller scale, interiors are designed to be as malleable as possible to cater every need its inhabitants have. Meanwhile façades don’t seem to participate in such dynamism and remain static in front of the movement taking place around them.
By definition, façade is the face of a building. However, they not always represent the expression of what’s behind them. Often, it’s the opposite, it hides the intimacy of the building offering a very personal space. In some cases façades are only a testimony of something that happened years ago and has very little to do with the interior. There’s different examples of cities in which buildings have been demolished but its façade has been preserved to welcome a new interior. Façades are then used as crustaceans use carapaces: a new inhabitant occupies it, inheriting the physical characteristics of the previous owner without adapting its external appearance. In the same way, it’s often difficult to read a site’ story by looking at a façade.
Although it’s easy to consider that interiors and public space will welcome a myriad of scenarios, not so much when it comes to façades. We are very conscious that façades need to be moveable to accommodate its performance to different daylight or seasons, but there’s not many examples of them that are designed to adapt to the activity around it. A façade expresses what the architect intended for it at the moment of the construction, after that very little changes are made to it.
Façades are a very significant element, they not only provide protection and intimacy to the activity they take in, they define public space. Despite of belonging to private and public life, façades don’t seem to be respond to them. It seems that their role is to materialise the limit between the two worlds without really engaging with any of them. Being a neutral element makes it a privileged component of the city that is encouraged to preserve untouched despite of the non-stop transformation of spaces surrounding it. However, if urban planning is being develop to be reponsive, façades will have to be soon involved and play a new role in cities.