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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

AE15: Polycarbonate Panels

Within the span of one week I came across two buildings, storage sheds, that each use polycarbonate panels, a cladding material not uncommon today. A quick flip through the chapter on plastics in Victoria Ballard Bell and Patrick Rand's Materials for Design reveals eight structures that use polycarbonate, be it a bus shelter, church, gallery or residence. Nevertheless it was quite a coincidence to see such similar types of buildings receive such similar treatment.

The Storage Barn in Washington, Connecticut is by Gray Organschi Architecture and is featured at Archinect. The small structure accommodates materials on palettes for the client, a builder. At first it reminds me of SPF:architects' Somis Hay Barn (featured in AE12), another storage shed whose appearance is constantly modified by the amount and configuration of materials stored. In that case it's hay, in this case it's wood and stone. The polycarbonate panels sit behind the materials stored under a shallow eave; they line the interior space and allow light to pass between the materials outside.

[Storage Barn by Gray Organschi Architecture | image source]

In Munich, Germany, 03 München has created a building for Firma Kraft Baustoffe, found at german-architects via their eMagazin. While on a much larger scale than the project above, and incorporating other functions besides material storage, the high shelf (empty in the photo below and full at bottom right) is basically the same parti as the Connecticut storage barn; materials sit in front of the polycarbonate wall lining the interior space. The main differences here are the scale of the storage, the extent of the roof covering the materials and the access road underneath.

[Baustoffhandel Kraft by 03 München | image source]

Neither project really expands on the use of polycarbonate panels, as exhibited in Materials for Design, for example. The translucent corrugated sheets are prized for admitting light, being lightweight and their resiliency to varying weather conditions. The material's use in these two projects is also due to its impact resistance, greater than glass. Therefore it is suitable in an area where palettes and their materials may inadvertently collide with the wall, all the while admitting the necessary light inside. The use of polycarbonate panels elevates what are basically functional sheds into glowing boxes with ever-changing appearances.


  1. Interesting post. While maybe not being particularly innovative theoretically or formally, vernacular buildings can bring newer ideas and materials into actual practice. I like the way these structures are kind of "dumb" They aren't haunted by language in the way that "important" architecture is.
    I think it proves that there's still something to the form/ function dialectic.

  2. I am so inspired when I came across this lovely architecture. Really the architecture on the free land I likes very much


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