“It’s a systemic approach—they presented different strategies for different envelope and shading propositions,” juror William Massie says, explaining why Performative Envelope Lab research by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) stood out from the pack. SOM based its research on nine buildings, designed by different teams within the firm, each illustrative of forward-thinking building-envelope design. Projects covered techniques from frit patterns to parametric design to environmental shading.

The SOM team looked at curtainwalls post-construction and drew conclusions from real conditions, not solely from modeled performance. The jury lauded a large firm’s commitment to self-evaluation and a continual manipulation of the exterior envelope in order to respond to the demands of each site. The lab’s criteria went beyond factors of energy consumption or sustainability, and included issues of cultural context, identity, and security. One example, the Zhengzhou Greenland building in Zhengzhou, China, used a light-gauge-metal shading system to protect the all-glass tower from heat gain. The form takes its cues from the traditional stepped pagoda. In another example, the Leamouth Peninsula Building N in London, SOM responded to the need for greenspace on a tight site by creating a four-sided vertical garden. Its strategically detailed curtainwall allows for rampant plant growth with minimal maintenance.

But more than the individual projects themselves, it was a dedication to process that struck the jurors. They saw a practice devoted to skin analysis and to transforming conventional ideas toward façades. “We chose it [the Performative Envelope Lab] because it actually analyzed building façades in a meaningful way,” juror Julie Eizenberg says. “It’s research and development in the manner of standing back and looking at what was done and what are potentials, rather than research and development relative to invention.”

Project Credits

Project Performative Envelope Lab
Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Project Examples Poly Beijing, Beijing, China; China World Trade Center, Beijing, China; University of North Carolina Genomic Science Building, Chapel Hill, N.C.; Government Service Administration Building, Denver; Rolex Tower, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Infinity Tower, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Zhengzhou Greenland, Zhengzhou, China; Leamouth Peninsula Building N, London; Jinao Tower, Nanjing, China
Contributors Bill Baker, Hendra Bong, Mark Borkowski, C. Keith Boswell, AIA, Arthur Cantwell, Peng-Chien Chang, Doojin Cho, Leo Chow, Eunjung Chung, Christopher Ciraulo, Stephan Ciulla, Brent Collins, Francis Cooke, Patrick Daly, Daniela Dan, Arvinder Dang, Tamara Dinsmore, AIA, Sean Doyle, Christine Dumich, Bernie F. Gandras, AIA, Daniele Ghertovici, Iana Gueorguieva, Nik Haak, Anwar Hakim, AIA, Maurice Hamilton, Cheng-Yu Ho, Justin Ho, Ping Jang, Philip Kaefer, Eric R. Keune, AIA, Thomas Kinzl, AIA, Tim Kleinert, Dianne Kontos, Raymond Kuca, Timo Kujala, Christiana Kyrillou, Brian Lee, FAIA, Henry Lee, Hunsang Lee, Luke Leung, Kenneth Maruyama, Aaron Mazieka, Bernard McDonagh, James Michaels, AIA, Hana Maulana Murdan, John Natale, Kevin O’Connor, AIA, Dan O’Riley, Jo Palma, Isaac Persley, Timothy Poell, Anne Poone, Inho Rhee, Kevin Rodenkirch, Peter Ruggiero, AIA, Hyejung Ryoo, Daniel Salinas, Mark Sarkisian, Mark Schwettman, Jorge Soler, Mathew Staublin, Ayumi Sugiyama, Surjanto Surjadji, Marc Tirikian, Patricia Tjandrawinata, Lucas Tryggestad, AIA, Peter Van Vechten, AIA, Sandra Ventura, Carsten Max Voecker, Ross Wimer, FAIA, Weiqi Wang, Angela Wu, Sky Xu, Eric Zachrison