Strategies of integration: PILA Studio design a new façade for the Piraeus Tower. ―
PILA is the selected winner in an invited international competition to redesign the facade of Piraeus Tower. The design is being carried out in conjuction with facade engineer Eckersley O’Callaghan. PILA’s plan for the design of the new facade is to transform the structure of the tower into a dynamic landmark that reflects the vibrant energy of the aspiring district of Piraeus. Through an integrated strategy, the proposal engages with the multiple scales of experience whereby one perceives the tower: a visual marker on the skyline, intriguing from up close, heartening from the sea.
A shading structure consisting of vertical and horizontal overhangs encloses the tower. Each vertical fin is horizontally displaced from one floor to the next, creating a spring pattern that wraps around the building. The pattern appears to gently slide from one facade to another, with the resulting visual effect of the facade wrapping around the tower like an immense piece of fabric. This dynamic pattern appears different from various locations, creating a rich visual experience that is constantly transforming, depending on where one is standing. This approach allows for a specific treatment of each facade, depending on environmental requirements and view opportunities, but also ensures a unified treatment of the volume. To further emphasize the movement of the facade, the vertical fins rotate as they rise toward the top of the structure. The rotation of fins is designed to optimize the shading performance of the building and amplify the panoramic views the property offers. The fins of the southwest and southeast facades are rotated, so as to give unobstructed views of the water and the port, and the northwest and northeast facades are oriented toward views of downtown Athens.
The design of the facade overhang system is a result of an ambitious sustainability and energy conservation strategy. Following a meticulous solar study, the vertical and horizontal louvers of the tower have been calibrated in order to reduce solar gain on the facade by 50%, resulting in a 20% reduction of the overall energy demand of the building.
The integration benefits of the new design are beyond dispute: The tower, maintaining its identity of a tall building, has its edges “softened” while the rhythm of its façade remains consistent with the small scale of its urban context. Besides the inventive geometry and the sustainable strategy, the design hints to its use of color, which will be a subject of further study. Given its location by the sea, the aluminum structure will need to be protected with a superdurable coating (5 years Florida test) to withstand the aggressive solar rays from its waterfront surroundings, and maintain its gloss and tonality for many years, with proven 30-year results in buildings all over the world (AkzoNobel Project Guarantees). The color tonality of the fins appears to match the abstract off-white of the surrounding urban environment; since their geometry is angular, light and shadow effects could be intensified with the choice of a dense, matte off-white or grey. Given the great importance of views from the inside of the building, however, from where the fins will be visible from a very close distance, the architects could consider a color with metallic effects, especially suitable if the edges of the fins are slightly curved. Then, onlookers would have an ever more intense interaction with the color surfaces from the inside, as they move: Metallic specks intensify the effect of natural light interacting with the color surface in micro-scale, and generate in a living, ever-changing architectural element.
The tower is the tallest structure on the port of Piraeus and the second-tallest building in Greece, after the Tower of Athens. With a height of 84 meters, its presence has dominated the image of the port for 44 years. The original tower, designed by the architects I. Vikelas, G. Molfesis and A. Loizos, was completed in 1975, but the interior has never been occupied, except for the first three floors. We are looking forward to the result, both for the outstanding architectural quality of the façade as well as for the legacy this will leave for the many, upcoming tall buildings planned in the Athens metropolitan area in the future.