Decoding Design

Barclay's origami inspired headquarters in Paris

Barclay's origami inspired headquarters in Paris

Posting in Architecture

Panels of glass and 'marble' house the new headquarters of Barclays Capital Bank within origami folds.

Buildings in close quarters of monuments and historic architecture need to be able to steal the spotlight without hogging it. The French headquarters of the Barclays Capital Bank manages to stand out from but still respect its famous neighbors, including the Arc de Triomphe. Manuelle Gautrand Architects used an origami concept for the building's facade to create a playful double glass wall system.

An inner, conventional glass curtain wall and a second system of custom glass panels, screen printed with marble patterns, make up the skin of the building. The screen printed ‘marble’ panels, supported by stainless steel fittings and an aluminum curtain wall system, form a triangulated pattern of folded, 'open books' to create a sunshade on the facade and balcony railings on the upper floors.

The sunshade echoes the way a piece of origami appears when held, with deeper 'creasing' at the center of the façade which slowly flattens towards the edges of the building. Three types of ‘marble’ were also used to emphasize the effect: one darker and deeper veined in the center of the elevation and two lighter colored marbles with less veining towards the edges. The fading of the marble panels in relief and color is a bow to the adjacent buildings.

Although the designers initially wanted the façade to incorporate actual marble, they opted to screen-print marble patterns for the following advantages:

1. More control over design and color

2. Precise design of the book matched veining of the marble

3. Greater ability to produce more colors and types of marble

4. Durability of the screen-printed glass (when marble is cut into extremely thin veneers, the material has a tendency to ‘de-crystallize’ in appearance)

Gautrand’s design work often incorporates digital innovations and the intricate pattern of the marble panels was digitally modeled, fabricated, and assembled from precisely laid out framework. Barclays’ headquarters is an elegant example of how a designer successfully translates a design concept into a real building.

Images: courtesy of Manuelle Gautrand

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure