“I think it’s incredibly fascinating,” Perepelitza told me in a recent phone conversation. “That’s what we’re looking at when we look at buildings. And there’s this incredible potential in what they can do.” The architect’s extensive research findings are also being presented on the BetterBricks website.
Perepelitza graduated from the University of Oregon and has been practicing since 1992, with some of that time at Richard Brown Architects as well as ZGF for the past five years.
“Even though there are things we know and we’re doing quite well, there’s a ton we don’t know,” he said of building facades. “And it seems like things are changing and a lot of new potential with the envelope. The fellowship gave me an excuse to focus on it and to follow up with what’s happening in northern Europe.”
If Perepelitza’s itinerary indeed represents cities and countries leading innovation with building envelopes, I need to make studying this stuff more of a priority. He visited six cities in Germany as well as London, Bath, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. “I had a lot of interviews,” he said, “but I tried to keep enough time to just bike around and look at what’s out there.”
In this architect’s eyes, building façades are interesting for their duality. They they must marry both performance and aesthetics for example, as a big part of energy efficiency goals and also a major part of how the building looks. What’s more, solutions can be modern and utilize new technologies, or they can be low-tech and come with hundreds of years of proven results. Perepelitza also sees building façades increasingly able to change.
“Rather than a static envelope, there’s this potential for it to be dynamic and to change or at least to respond to dynamic conditions: provide air, light,” he said “All of this stuff is happening outside the building where a sophisticated envelope can manage those things. As the light moves across them it’s changing, which is visually interesting but provides solar control. Or they may be literally changing for shade and ventilation. But there are basic ways of going about it too, like operable shutters on windows, exterior shading or Venetian blinds on the outside of buildings. Before we had electricity and AC, that’s how we kept comfortable. In places like Germany the starting point is assuming not having air conditioning. We’re used to thinking this way a little more in this climate because we don’t have air conditioning as much. In some ways, it’s going back to the ways we used to do things to move forward.”
Looking forward to the possibility of innovation in our region, “There are a lot of huge hurdles, so it’s not going to be immediate, but I think we’ll start getting a lot more clever about applying these things and getting the most out of them,” the architect added. “There will probably be cases of high profile projects with big budgets doing more, but I’d hope it would not be limited to it.”
The Center For Architecture exhibit of photography and research findings continues through the end of July at 403 NW 11th Avenue.