deformable skin


At the port of Piraeus this tower rises on a very prominent site with a vital surrounding. To resolve the problem of the sleeping giant, this project proposal suggests a deformable skin which creates interactions on different levels between the Piraeus Tower and its context.
Taking the current structure as starting point, surrounding urban hotspots attract parts of the façade to reconfigure. These occurring deformations provoke synergies with the surrounding which allow new happenings and revaluate the whole area.
At Dimosthenous and Lykourgou Street the skin stretches to provide a roof for the market and its lively atmosphere penetrates the ground floor of the new Piraeus Tower. On the other side at Akti Poseidoneos Street the skin allows building a pedestrian bridge across the busy road and creates a stronger relation to the waterfront and the port.
Above the plinth the skin grows upward approximately following the existing structure. Only where the new stairway climbs up, the skin deforms itself to enclose and hold it. At the top the deformation detaches again from the existing structure, pointing on one side towards the Acropolis to focus a dramatic view, while on the other side it provides a panorama across the port. These two deformations can be seen from outside as pointing towards the Acropolis and on the other as a welcoming gesture towards the sea. These deformations at the top interact on a bigger and more visual scale than the lower ones and enhance the tower’s status in a larger city context.
The duality of interior and exterior value underlines the fact, that the building is alive with and without occupied indoor space and interacts on several levels with its context.
The overall project is designed and drawn in a parametric way to allow changes very easily. Attractions can be changed or even added and the written design engine updates the project dynamically.

version PDF


The skeletal structure consists of a triangulation of the skin which is realized in circular steel tubes and assembled with spherical joints, each of which connects six tubes. The spherical geometry of the joints allows the assembly of different angles in which the tubes meet each other.
The structure is connected to the existing concrete whenever no deformation occurs. Cantilevered parts are self-supporting and limited by their structural properties.
The deformable skin starts its life as a new appearance at the port of Piraeus whose tubular steel structure interacts with its surrounding. The facets are empty or faced with aluminum frames holding different infill panels which can also be changed over time.
Starting with DuPont’s ETFE membranes, while the tower is still unoccupied, they can cover or mark certain parts of the tower. This includes for instance providing natural light and protection to the stairs and the passage to the port or backlit elements which can light the surrounding during the night. Solar panels will be installed to profit from the enormous available surface and produce cheap and clean energy for a green future.
As Piraeus Tower’s value increases and it starts to be occupied more and more the façade continues to change. Office and administrative spaces will need more light, restaurants and lookout points desire to have nice views from the top and the infill panels will change to glazing in DuPont SentryGlas Interlayer to provide the best performance for the tenants.

the GH definitions are split in two parts, because in one it wouldn’t be possible to work in. The first definition allows to deforme the the existing structure of the Piraeus Tower.

GH canvas for creating the deformable skin

rhino screen shot of the deformable skin

The second definition applies a tubular structure to the deformable skin from the first GH definition.

GH canvas for the tubular structure

rhino screen shot of the structure

An overview of all the files can be found in the following gallery:


  1. [...] parasite structure by Martin on 18|04|2010 process In response to the mid-term crit on the 15th of April 2010 and as continuation of my very first esquisse, I take the following [...]

  2. [...] deformable skin by Martin on 15|05|2010 design projects Considering the project state from the last crit as form finding process, the aim for this crit was to optimize its structure. Several analysis show the strucutre’s weaknesses and strengths. One issue was the maximum span of my structural members and another one consists in the curvature analysis of the deformed surface. To deal with this optimization idea I first did a quick research in general optimization strategies. Taking them rather as general inputs then as actual algorithms, I came up with my own strategy. The point grid from the form finding process generates several more or less horizontal curves which I first subdivide into segments with the same lenght, which gives a polyline as output. The length can be chosen and in addition there is an option to change the resolution of the polyline following the curve. When the curve’s curvature is higher than a certain value the structural length at that point is only equal the half of the other lengths. The subdivision starts at a given point which consists in the curve’s closest point to the stair attractor and ends by keeping a cerain cap to the starting point. After the creation of these “horizontal” polylines the neighbours are linked at each point with the two minimal distances. These new “vertical” structural members sometimes have a way too long span to be taken as valuable output. For that reason another subdivision process runs through all of them and subdivides each element taking in account the input value as maximal length. These subdivision points are again linked between each other and sometimes supported by columns standing on the plinth. Another process at the end consists in bringing the forces down to the ground at certain points. GH-file To be sure about the homogeneity of the lengths I ran again an analysis of the structural length. Image showing the length analysis before the “vertical” analysis: And after all the optimization processes all is green: Finally there are a few special moments in the structure. The first consists in the stair leading up to the dissolving top where the structure gives bigger openings at certain points and looks more dynamic. The pedestrian bridge is suspended from the structure and crosses the road which today separats the port from the tower. The columns which support the structure above the plinth create a possibility for a public space or restaurant’s outdoor space covered by steel tubes. As the Piraeus Tower has quite big dimensions, there are many structural joints which hold up the new deformable skin and fix it to the existing concrete structure. But not all joints connect the same number of tubes and all of them come in with a different angle. To deal with this changes and having one system for all the tower the joints have to be adaptive and able to react to each situation. The following joint allows up to seven tubes coming in and each of them can be adapted with two rotation axis. Two steel plates hold the members together and have to be squeezed together. Where the structure is attached to the existing concrete the squeezing is done by the consoles, otherwise a simple screw can fix the joint. Overview of the structure in elevations and plan: Tags: attractor, facade, grasshopper, mid-term, Piraeus Tower, skin, structure, visual basic [...]

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