About Face

31 october 2013 / architecture / words adele chong

It’s hard not to love a building with an exciting façade. Here are a few books you should most definitely judge by their covers.





(Images by Kyungsub Shin)


Every project launched by the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has been groundbreaking and their recent transformation of the Chungha Building is no exception. Situated in Seoul’s trendy Apgujeong district, the unusual design of this mixed-use structure draws on the idea of a building with multiple personalities. Multifaceted with respect to both its appearance and function, the irregular framework features a cluster of varyingly sized openings while adding another story to the original structure, which was built in the 1980s.

Coated in white, one of the building’s most striking features is its seductive scale-like exterior which the architects liken to “white foam.” Corresponding with the detail, the windows feature a bubble-patterned skin, further articulating the building’s tactile qualities. At night, the futuristic overtones of the façade are heightened with the presence of multi-tonal lighting, easily making it the most arresting sight on the street – a hard-won achievement in an area brimming with eye-catching shops.





(Images by Peter Clarke)


Good-looking pubs may be a dime a dozen down under but we are willing to wager that few are as visually memorable as Melbourne’s Prahran Hotel II, as left in the deft hands of Techne Architects. Redesigned by the Aussie studio, the street-facing façade of this two-story corner establishment ventures well beyond its relatively basic project brief, which called for the overhaul of an internalized single-story extension – unhappy with its lacklustre proportions, the client sought to convert the entity into a double-height space with a central courtyard.

Made from stacked oversized concrete pipes cozily containing individual booth areas, the sophisticated new frontage not only works as a sound architectural solution that sets the stage for patron interaction and ample natural light, it also proffers a nod to the pub by knowingly referencing the shape of stockpiled kegs and barrels.






(Images by Nacasa & Partners Inc.)


Tokyo’s Ginza district has no shortage of iconic buildings, making it difficult to believe that anyone would even bat an eyelash at yet another wildly wrought edifice in the vicinity. Nevertheless, Dear Ginza, by Toyko-based practice Amano Design Office, has succeeded in stopping passers-by in their tracks with its vividly tessellated façade. Located on a “long sought-after” lot, a stone’s throw away from Ginza’s main street, the building’s exterior is primed on a light, double skin structure which combines glass curtain walls and an aluminum-punched metal foundation.

The multifunctional skin suffices as both interior and exterior décor, while doing away with the need for blinds and curtains. A graphically rendered floral pattern was lastly employed by its designers as a thoughtful means of softening the façade’s hard edges; merged with the fragmented surface, this unforgettable detail enables the building to hold its own aesthetic ground in an area beloved for its Modernist gems. 






(Images by Patrick Bingham-Hall)


No stranger to the world of game-changing surfaces, award-winning Singaporean firm WOHA rings up another winner with its latest Lion City project, 48 North Canal Road. A vibrant hodgepodge of elements that both conflict and complement one another, it’s admittedly hard to know where to look first with this complex endeavor melding a new boutique office and the reconstruction of a pair of adjoining heritage shophouses.

Described as a “quartz in a rock,” the building’s chiseled expression came about as a result of building guidelines – splayed corners were a requirement due to its awkward site – rather than aesthetics, proving once again that necessity is the mother of invention. Brandishing copper-hued perforated aluminum panels and dynamic strips of green, the building is a vision – it’s little wonder that it snagged a URA Architectural Heritage Award this year.






Opening in conjunction with this year’s Beijing Design Week, the Tales Pavilion embraces its botanical context by alluding to overgrown blades of grass. Poised in the heart of a garden, the eye-catching exterior of the Luca Nichetto-designed structure is composed of 1,200 vertical brass tubes that span the length of the surrounding trees. Aptly reflecting the evolving natural landscape around it, the color of material changes over time as it oxidizes. Beneath the grass-like façade, large two-story bronze monoliths lay claim to picture windows that draw attention to the equally eloquent interiors.



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