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Hadi Teherani, interview, ceramic facades

Facades must be emotional – interview with Hadi Teherani

With his buildings, architect Hadi Teherani is shaping cityscapes all over the world. His holistic design approach also comes to bear in the context of facades. For Tehrani, a "perfect" facade is not only functional, but also emotionally appealing, and is far more than just the shell of a building. With Katharina Sommer he talked about contemporary building envelopes.

Katharina Summer: The shell of a building contributes significantly to the formation of its identity. What makes a "perfect facade" in your eyes?

Hadi Teherani: The image of the building in the street-space manifests the content of the architecture and the demands placed on it. The facade thus not only provides the necessary structural-physical shielding, but also expresses the complex architectural objective in interaction with the form and openings of the building. A passer-by who has no opportunity to get to know the interior of the building can gain an impression of what is going on behind the facade. The quality inside becomes visible and perceptible in the outer appearance. The demands placed on the facade thus encompass the entire spectrum of the architecture.

Using one of your projects as an example, can you please explain what role facade design plays in your work?

There is no logical separation between different design and planning phases. With the very first ideas, the facade is already in play, as are initial ideas on room configuration and interior design. As in a musical composition, individual passages cannot be excluded for later arrange-ment. In different project phases, only the processing depths vary. For the Dancing Towers in Hamburg, the facade naturally had to implement the building dynamics. In the case of the Kranhäuser in Cologne, the task right from the start was to illustrate the different typologies of the skyscrapers, and also the overall effect of the three-part ensemble.

You take a holistic approach, ranging from the architecture to the details and individual de-sign products that you develop based on the architecture. How do you design a facade in your office?

From the beginning, the design idea determines the direction in which we want to develop the facade. The concept is derived from the interior and the urban context. The materiality of the facade in particular must reflect the existing environment. This does not mean that the only correct solution is always adaptation. Variation and contrast are additional meaningful possibilities, as long as the design meets the requirements of the task.

There are fewer and fewer limits to the materials used in facade design today. Which mate-rials and functions appeal to you in particular when planning facades?

I'm always attracted to new materials. Advances in the development of materials allow for new design freedoms, and every architect and designer is fascinated by this. Glass, whose transparency is adjustable, reduces the heat input to a minimum. Corian enables new, light aesthetics and subtle lighting. I am fascinated by the three-dimensional structures, surfaces, colours and textures of ceramics. They open up undreamt-of possibilities for designing the inevitably higher proportion of closed facade surfaces for energy reasons.

Which premise applies to you in connection with facades? "Form follows function" or "function follows form"? Or to put it another way: Do you focus primarily on creative aesthetics or do functional fulfilment and integration into urban or rural surroundings play a role?

Unlike the artist, the architect is always faced with the task of giving everyday use a form and a framework. If you are looking for a handy equation for this, it can only be "form follows function". Nevertheless, it's also about form, emotion, charisma and identity. Identity-forming buildings demand a clearly defined, vivid architecture with functional advantages, but above all an emotional charisma. Compelling architecture is therefore always also sensuality that taken shape.

Techniques such as digital printing open up amazing and almost unlimited aesthetic possi-bilities. This also and especially applies to ceramic facades. Do you prefer project-specific special designs or do you also work with high-quality standard solutions, or do you see a "peaceful co-existence" between both schools of thought?

This always depends on the respective situation and task. Even the possibilities of the standard solutions create a very wide scope as regards details. As a result, you don't need to work with something new or special in each case. Nevertheless, it is sometimes logical to further develop the possibilities of the material if a particular construction task or situation renders this necessary.

Are there certain types of buildings or "situations" for which you could imagine ceramic facades?

Especially with large closed areas within museums, shopping worlds and residential buildings, ceramics allow a way back to filigree detail and proportionality, which is quickly lost in large "monumental" projects. The special attraction for me, however, lies in the elegant, particularly sophisticated and lasting appearance of this material.

Reprinted with the kind permission of Agrob Buchtal

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