I just started reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, a marvel of a book on architecture without compromise:

What can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose.

And this passage made me think of Media-TIC, a building which I pass by often, and which still amazes me, because it clearly shows that “it’s alive”, changing its appearance throughout the day, and following the sun like a kind of an abstract giant sunflower. Imagine a building that can breathe, and expand according to the sun in order to maintain a comfortable interior environment without wasting energy. Well, that’s Media-TIC.

A 38-metre high cube with four different facades, two of them covered in inflatable cushions – the work of Enric Ruiz Geli, of Cloud 9 architects, Media-TIC building opened in 2010 as a hub for companies working in the field and for technology-related events and meetings – TIC stands for technologies of innovation and communication.

A contemporary building allowing complex facade designs: we are building the Digital La Pedrera in the 22@Barcelona.

The design of the building focused on optimizing the structure and the energetic efficiency and the result – an almost floating from the ground cube with striking design, expresses these ideas.

Media-TIC is designed to optimize energy use. The south-east oriented facade, receiving six hours of sun daily, is a mosaic of convex and concave triangular cushions, filled with layers of inflatable polymer – ETFE or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, act as a variable sunscreen, opening in winter to gain solar energy, and closing in summer to protect and shade. The same solution can be found for instance in Beijing’s Water Cube, built for the 2008 Olympics.

When inflated or deflated, the EFTE layers of Media-TIC make the facade transparent or opaque, minimizing light and heat at times of maximum sunlight. The climatic system of the building is able to manage the movement of air around the entire facade, ensuring energy efficiency.

In the south-west facade, also receiving six hours of sunlight daily, nitrogen-based fog is added to the cushions. When heated by sun, nitrogen increases the opacity. The cushions are translucent so by night the building radiates the interior light.

Both the facades and office spaces are equipped with multiple temperature sensors, humidity or pressure that collect exterior information to adjust the interior conditions. Furthermore, the roof of the Media-TIC houses a photovoltaic cover and a natural garden area. Rainwater is collected in a tank to maximize use of the building’s wastewater circuits. The structure is designed so that the public space on the ground floor, and the office spaces, enjoy maximum of spatial flexibility. The metallic braced piles which sustain the building are placed at 14 metres distance and in the areas of auxiliary spaces or around the circulations.

Media-TIC was named World Building of the Year 2011 at the World Architecture Festival, the largest global celebration of architecture.

Sources: Ruiz Geli + Cloud 9 architects| IAAC | Designbuild Network | Archdaily (ES) | Architen (on ETFE) |

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