Expressive Polycarbonate: Creating Colored Translucent Facades

Expressive Polycarbonate: Creating Colored Translucent Facades

Polycarbonate has become an alluring alternative to glass in facades, as it has different levels of translucency and can provide optimal transmission and diffusion of light. Moreover, it is light, flexible, recyclable, durable, resistant to impact, and includes UV protection, in addition to resisting temperatures between -40°C and 115°C. But beyond its functional properties, this thermoplastic also provides wide-ranging aesthetic opportunities, allowing architects to create unusually dynamic and expressive facades.

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Cortesía de Rodeca

Although polycarbonate can form facades with great visual impact, its effect is not only external. The material lets light pass into the interior of the building and distributes it evenly, generating highly luminous and bright spaces. This effect is intensified when colored pieces are used, since the tint has a direct effect on the environment, achieving enchanting atmospheres.

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Cortesía de Rodeca

Rodeca's colored polycarbonate panels demonstrate the possibilities for this type of material. Its lines BiColor, DecoColor, and DuoColor offer different effects depending on the respective constitutions of the material. BiColor is an extrusion technique for polycarbonate panels which is made up of two colors, one color on the inner face and another color on the remaining layers. When it comes into contact with light, the polycarbonate produces three-dimensional lighting effects, varying in coloration according to the intensity of light and the perspective of the viewer. With DecoColor, one outer layer is a different color than inside layers. This way a panel can be completely opaque from the outside but have perfect daylight on the inside.

Polycarbonate panels are integrally-colored, making the color more intense and brilliant. Many different effects can be achieved, depending on the chosen colors and the building's design. Frosted colors give a distinctive matte finish on the surface of the product. In addition, there are certain colors which also offer a functional added value. For example, Heat Bloc S is a material which prevents heat gain and absorbs IR radiation which would otherwise lead to heat accumulation inside the building.

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BiColor. Image Cortesía de Rodeca
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Frosted Colors. Image Cortesía de Rodeca

Next, we review four projects that have taken advantage of the aesthetic qualities of colored polycarbonate panels, adding significant value to the base structures.

Multicolored Tetris Hotel for Dutch Design Week 2017 / MVRDV

Located in Eindhoven, this hotel was designed to answer the question: what will cities look like in the future?—the Dutch Design Week 2017 prompt. For MVRDV, flexibility should prevail in the architecture of the future, which is why they made an attractive and dynamic multi-colored hotel inspired by the game of Tetris. Thus, they built a complex system of different interlocking configurations, each highlighted by a particular color and enhanced in some points by polycarbonate.

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Tetris Hotel / MVRDV. Image © Ossip van Duivenbode, Rodeca Systems b.v. Courtesy of Rodeca
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Tetris Hotel / MVRDV. Image © Ossip van Duivenbode, Rodeca Systems b.v. Courtesy of Rodeca

The Lighthouse Young People’s Centre / Associated Architects

This community center for youth was born as part of the urban regeneration master plan of Birmingham City Council’s Newtown. Due to its function, the project aims to distinguish itself from its context as a "lighthouse," which is achieved through the use of semi-transparent colored polycarbonate coatings. In this way, excellent natural lighting is obtained during the day, and it appears as a visual beacon when illuminated at night.

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The Lighthouse Young People’s Centre / Associated Architects. Image © Craig Holmes, Rodeca Ltd. Courtesy of Rodeca
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The Lighthouse Young People’s Centre / Associated Architects. Image © Craig Holmes, Rodeca Ltd. Courtesy of Rodeca

Oostende Station / Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes

Due to the high demand for travel and therefore the constant movement of pedestrians, the Ostend station in Belgium is a focal point within the city. Due to its uncontested significance, it was decided that the station should be renovated, giving relevance to its role in the landscape and specifically in the port. Following this logic, to unify and cover the total area of the project, the architects designed a transparent colored roof made of polycarbonate panels mounted on a steel structure. Thanks to the use of different shades, it was possible to consolidate a continuous space under the ceiling with different variations of light, giving special identity to this urban node.

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Oostende Station / Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes. Image © David Boureau, Rodeca Systems Belgium. Courtesy of Rodeca
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Oostende Station / Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes. Image © David Boureau, Rodeca Systems Belgium. Courtesy of Rodeca

Marmelo Mill / Bak Gordon Arquitectos

Colored polycarbonate panels were also used as an aesthetic element in the Marmelo Mill olive oil factory, located in Portugal. The effect obtained in this case is unusual, since the bright yellow color used on the ceiling is reflected on the floor, achieving a light that is distinguished and at the same time incorporated into the landscape. As a unique detail, the golden tone of the ceiling and the light it reflects also represents the golden color of olive oil manufactured there.

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Marmelo Mill / Bak Gordon Arquitectos. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG. Courtesy of Rodeca
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Marmelo Mill / Bak Gordon Arquitectos. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG. Courtesy of Rodeca

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About this author
Cite: Valenzuela, Catalina. "Expressive Polycarbonate: Creating Colored Translucent Facades" [Policarbonato expresivo: Diseñando fachadas translúcidas de color] 18 Jan 2021. ArchDaily. (Trans. Franco, José Tomás) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/950927/expressive-polycarbonate-creating-colored-translucent-facades> ISSN 0719-8884

Tetris Hotel / MVRDV. Image © Ossip van Duivenbode, Rodeca Systems b.v. Courtesy of Rodeca

富有表现力的聚碳酸酯,创造彩色半透明外墙

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