LAVA’s UTS Tower Skin sails off to Venice

Image copyright LAVA.

Tower Skin’, LAVA’s proposed reskinning of the UTS Tower in Sydney, is one of the ‘contemporary unbuilt projects’ chosen to represent Australia at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.

It will be showcased in the exhibition ‘Augmented Australia 1914‐2014’ in a virtual pavilion. Venice Biennale director Rem Koolhaas observes that ‘national identity has seemingly been sacrificed to modernity’.

Engaging with this global trend, 22 Australian projects will be brought to life through three‐dimensional augmented models, images, voiceovers and animations. These include historical designs, contemporary unbuilt projects and the new Australian Pavilion, which will be under construction in Venice.

Chris Bosse, director of LAVA and Adjunct Professor of UTS, said: “The UTS tower highlights how national characteristics were erased in favour of a single modern language in the 1960s. But where national identity is erased in the tower, ‘Tower Skin’ brings it back.”

“LAVA’s solution to revitalising the generic style 1960s modernist building was to reskin it with a lightweight membrane envelope.”

Surface tension allows a high tech membrane to freely stretch around the existing building, referencing the Sydney Opera House sails, nature, the harbour and all that is Sydney. The simple, cost effective, easily constructed skin transforms a modernist icon into a stunning, sustainable, site‐specific structure.

LAVA gives the existing building a second life.

LAVA gives the existing building a second life.

“It addresses the timescales of fashion and technology versus building life spans, whilst incorporating 21st century technologies with local identity to achieve maximum visual impact with minimal material effort,” added Bosse.

The translucent cocoon embedded with LED strips acts as an intelligent media surface and creates its own ‘microclimate’: it generates energy with photovoltaic cells, collects rainwater, improves the distribution of natural daylight and uses available convective energy to help power the building’s ventilation requirements.

The proposal evolved into a broader architectural system to give inefficient and outdated buildings across the globe a ‘second life’, avoiding the costs of demolishing and rebuilding.

Tower Skin won the UN Habitat‐partnered 2010 ZEROprize Re‐Skinning Award. “National identity was erased in the 1960s tower but LAVA’s reskinning brings it back with a second life,” said Bosse.

Model, UTS Tower re-skin, LAVA, 2009-2010. Powerhouse Museum collection.

Model, UTS Tower re-skin, LAVA, 2009-2010. Powerhouse Museum collection.

LAVA, the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, was formed in 2007 by Chris Bosse, Alexander Rieck and Tobias Wallisser and has offices in Australia, Germany and China. Chris Bosse was a key designer of the Beijing Watercube whilst he was Associate Architect at PTW.

The 14th International Architecture Exhibition, directed by Rem Koolhaas, will be held from Saturday 7th June to Sunday 23rd November 2014 in Venice.

Perth team felix. are the creative directors of the Australian exhibition. felix. is a
multi‐disciplinary design company composed of Rene van Meeuwen, Matt Delroy‐Carr, Craig McCormack, Sophie Giles, Simon Anderson, Philip Goad and Romesh Goodnewardene.