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Changing Views of Façade

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In architecture, the facade of a building sets the tone for the rest of the building. Srinivas Daketi, Assistant Professor of Architecture at School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh analyses various factors such as style, movement, character, material, technology & transformation and their impact on facades.

The first impression of a building is achieved through the building envelop or facade, irrespective of the function or how the internal spaces are designed or conceived. The facade design depends on factors ranging from social, economic and geographical, to materials, technology and architect’s concept of visualization.

Facades since ages have been displaying various expressions and characters with styles varying depending on the period of construction. The architectural theorists have been naming them based on the character, period, materials used etc., The Great Pyramids of Giza, Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, Parthenon, Chrysler Building, The Falling water, Twin towers and many more buildings reflect and represent the design ideologies of eminent architects, builders and artists of their time.

Facades at different periods

Georgian Style was named for the kings who ruled England during the 1700s. The style is based on the work of Sir Christopher Wren and his contemporaries. The facades have geometrical proportions, hipped roof form, Palladian windows, symmetrical plan and building elevations arranged about a central axis. The main entrance is emphasized with columns, pilasters, and broken pediment forms. The façade has classical details.

American federal Style is an introduction to the period of federal style architecture in America lasting from approximately 1780-1820. Federal Style celebrated the birth of a new nation, based upon the Adamesque style popular in Britain. The Adamesque style combined Renaissance and Palladian forms, French Rococo and features of ancient Roman villas.

Greek revival symbolized the democratic ideals of America. Based on the ancient architecture of Greece, the facades are characterized by fluted columns and capitals, pediment porch, tall windows at first floor, heavy cornice, rectangular transom window over entrance and plain frieze.

Gothic Revival a style inspired by literature’s romantic movement of the early 1800’s, glorified the medieval past of England. The facades are characterized by pointed arches, picturesque silhouette, towers and battlements, bay & oriel windows, leaded stained glass, crenellation, wooden scrollwork at eaves, gables and steeply gabled roof.

Exotic Revival architecture in America reflected a romantic interest in archeology and historic styles and were primarily adapted from Egyptian and Moorish architecture. These styles were popular in hotels, theaters, and garden pavilions from 1830 to 1930.

Indian Temples

The places of pilgrimage are distributed through the entire India and are called Tirtha and Ksetra. The oldest temples that were built of brick and wood no longer exist. Stone later became preferred material. They are built of stones which are quarried in the various parts of India – sand stone prevails in central Indian temples; Lime stone or marble is frequent in western India; Trap in the Deccan; Granite in South India; Laterite and sand stone in few states. The earliest stone temples are preserved from 400 AD. The Hindu temple, has strictly no façade. The four orients and intermediate directions of space step forth in buttresses and images from the body of the temple in a continuous integrity of mass analogous to the variable pattern in which the divinities are laid out on the vastupurusha mandala.

Modern Architecture

Modern architecture came into existence primarily as a means to identify with the physical and social environment. Such identification has become problematic as the closed and secure environments of the past have disintegrated and new social and physical structures demand new forms of understanding.

The neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century produced Neo Classical architecture manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing features of late Baroque.

Art Nouveau was born of The Arts and Crafts Movement as an endeavour to override industrially produced decorative arts and return to craftsmanship. The Art Nouveau movement also walked hand in hand with symbolism and drew inspiration from the aesthetic movement with deeply interest in Japanese art.

Artists of the Art Nouveau style made use of technological innovations. They used wrought iron and irregular shaped glass pieces. Their work was marked by the use of hyperbolas and parabolas. They drew inspiration from nature. Floral patterns, seaweed, grass, insects and curving stems became popular motifs. In fact, the curved lines that were so characteristic of Art Nouveau gave it nicknames such as ‘noodle’, ‘whiplash’, ‘tapeworm’ and ‘cigarette-smoke style’. A very popular theme was a nymph with flowers in her streaming hair. Buildings made in this new style often have symmetrical shapes. They are characterized by arches and curved plant like designs on their surfaces. Louis Sullivan, Antoni Gaudi and Hector Guimard are some famous Art Noveau architects.

Deconstructivism in architecture, also called deconstruction is a development of postmodern architecture that began in the late 1980s. It is characterized by ideas of fragmentation, an interest in manipulating ideas of a structure’s surface or skin, non-rectilinear shapes which serve to distort and dislocate some of the elements of architecture, such as structure and envelope. The finished visual appearance of buildings that exhibit the many deconstructivist “styles” is characterized by a stimulating unpredictability and a controlled chaos.


History and the buildings
connect us from past to the present and lead us to the future. The facade design can comprise imitation, improvement or innovation. The best and the most appropriate sustainable solution to building envelop is the need of the society. And architects play a major role to achieve the solution. 

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