A kinetic façade is one that changes dynamically rather than being static or fixed, allowing movement to occur on a building’s surface. This helps to create what the architect Buckminster Fuller called a ‘skin-like articulation’ effect, and is an extension of the idea that a building's envelope is an active system rather than just a container.
A kinetic façade can be used to manage light, air, energy, and even information. They can act to reduce solar gain as well as allowing the passage of fresh air into the building, helping to alter the interior environment. The moving elements of the façade can be programmed to respond to climatic or other environmental factors, time, levels and type of occupancy and so on to improve performance and efficiency.
The Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi has a computer-controlled facade made of umbrella-like panels. These panels open and close throughout the day in response to the sun’s movement, giving optimal shading and allowing light to enter the building as required.
The Berlin-based design studio WHITEvoid developed FLARE in 2008. This is a kinetic ambient reflection membrane, meaning that a building could have a ‘living skin’, enabling the façade to breathe in response to the environment. Stainless steel flakes tilted by pneumatic cylinders act to reflect natural light away from the building, maintaining a comfortable interior environment during hot weather.
Kinetic facades can also be used for aesthetic purposes, to make a strong impression, to generate interest, or as part of art exhibitions.
The 2014 refurbishment of the Oxford Street Debenhams store (see top image). Designed by Archial Architects, included a cladding screen made up of 185,000 aluminium shingles which can move independently with the flow of wind to create a fluid or ripple effect across the entire surface, as well as providing some protection against rain.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building fabric.
- Cladding for buildings.
- Curtain wall systems.
- Fabrik by Shildan.
- Façade retention.
- Large-scale murals.
- Living façade.
- Schuppen house.
- The development of structural membranes.
- Wall types.
 External resources
- DE Magazine - Why kinetic architecture is more than a spectacle
Featured articles and news
Do you know all the various types of defects in brickwork?
US museum reveals plans for an installation made entirely of paper tubes.
Review of a book looking at how contemporary architecture found its expression within neoliberal capitalism.
The Great Mosque of Djenne, the largest mud-brick building in the world.
Amanda Clack, RICS President offers recommendations to government on Brexit and the construction skills shortage.
Tired of the commute? This architecture firm believes the best solution is to take cars underground.
Why do so many women leave engineering? Probably not for the reason you’re thinking.
For over 30 years David Trench was one of the UK's leading project managers. Read about his career through some of his most famous projects.
Leading institutes join forces calling for property flood resilience measures to help householders avoid repeat flooding.
CITB publish new report calling for the development of new skills standards for offsite construction.
Residents of neighbouring building go to High Court claiming viewing platform infringes their human rights.
If only Easter eggs came as large as this one in a Japanese bird sanctuary.