The power of attraction

Magnetic fluids are of continued interest to designers. As we wrote recently, magnetism is gaining popularity in design work.

Now, a prototype of smart façade has been developed by London based Space Group Architects. Their proposal is an experiment in magnetic architecture. The architects envisage using magnetism to allow façades to change translucency, colours and more.

The idea behind Magnetic Architecture is to explore the possibility of producing a façade cladding that changes properties such as transparency, reflectivity, colour and even shape. It does this using a computer controlled electromagnetic current.

The system consists of a glass unit. One of its micro-cavities contains ‘fluid metal’, a rheological fluid, which is altered by magnetism. Triple-glazed screens hold the ferro-fluid between two panes and electromagnetic sensors behind the third.

By steering a current to a wired grid in the third glass pane, electro-magnetic forces act on the ferro-fluid, transforming its shape, colour and translucency. The computer controlled system enables the creation of pulsating animations, running images and dark sparkling pictures.

Resulting colours vary from pale brown to almost black, just like different kinds of coffee.

These shades suited the architects well, as the proposal is to use the magnetic façade in a London café.

If the principle works out as well as the designers hope, the café-façade could become a light and animated external skin, similar to Peter Cook’s and Colin Fournier’s Kunsthaus in Graz. Because of the façade’s translucency, it can also be lit at night-time, adding colourful animation to an otherwise dark public space.


Images via Space Group Architects.