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Urban Haute Couture

The fascination of metallic mesh was at the heart of a presentation recently given by Dominique Perrault at the Swiss Building Centre in Zurich (SBCZ)

The occasion was the opening of his exhibition DPA – Lab Research and Innovation. He first came upon the idea of using this industrial material in the field of architecture some 20 years ago. The large-scale use of the textile membrane in the National Library of France (BNF) in Paris then marked his rapid rise into the league of star architects. The versatility, functionality and aesthetic expressiveness of the building material are what inspired Perrault to create ever new interpretations and applications. He had a congenial partner from the very beginning in the form of the technical weaving operation GKD – Gebr. Kufferath AG, who implemented his creative ideas in innovative woven designs.

At the SBCZ, Dominique Perrault took the opportunity to provide an audience of 220 invited architects insight into his work from the last two decades. All of the projects on show are defined by a relative de-materialisation of the respective building structure through a woven shell. In the exhibition, the characteristics of this architecture become literally tangible thanks to large-scale woven patterns and attachment means also developed by Perrault.

The textile structure of the GKD meshes creates a flowing transition of exclusive tailoring with Perrault’s architecture and interior design. Like a couturier, his vision of allowing architecture to blend into its surroundings becomes a reality through woven shapes, colour and structure. With veils of metal, he softens the dimensions of conventional buildings and transforms them into a filter for urban substances often already forgotten. The newly achieved balance between the individual components allows his architecture to be experienced as a holistic spatial creation. This sensuality of the woven metal mesh façades characterises a large proportion of Perrault’s work. He lends his architecture the desired symbolic character through use of large shapes and consistent elimination of anything superfluous. To guarantee sustainable added value for his buildings – and thereby also for their investors and users – Perrault exploits the broad functional deployment spectrum of metallic mesh with masterful expertise. For example, he combines its special aesthetics with its energetic and indoor climatic effect for highly effective solar protection or with individually designed transparency for discreet visual screening, ceiling suspensions or fall guard protection in a representative environment.

During his presentation in Zurich, Perrault covered the spectrum from the National Library of France (BNF), via the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the new theatre in the historic city centre of Albi, the new and updated buildings at the Lausanne Technical University in Switzerland (EPFL), right through to the Dufour Pavilion in the Palace of Versailles. In his opening words, Dr. Stephan Kufferath, CEO of GKD – Gebr. Kufferath AG, spoke of the inspiring force behind almost 20 years of close collaboration with Perrault. He then went on to say that the key in this regard is to implement the challenging aesthetic requirements and shapes of the designs in manufacturing techniques that regularly extend the boundaries of what is possible. GKD has been addressing this challenge with great passion for more than two decades to jointly create and utilise more new opportunities for the building material.

The exhibition at the Swiss Building Centre (SBCZ), Weberstraße 4, 8004 Zurich, is open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:30pm until 4 July 2014.

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